Mdm Noorridah Ismail, 41, has worked at the fast food restaurant, McDonald’s, for more than 25 years.
That was the only place that Mdm Noorridah knew of which offered flexible working hours and understood her circumstances.
Mdm Noorridah, a single mother of two children aged 11 and 14, cares for two-special needs persons – her youngest daughter and her younger sister, Mdm Noorain Ismail, 40. They live in a 1-room rental flat.
Caring for two special needs individuals
Mdm Noorridah’s oldest child, Ms. Seri Noor Waheedah, 14, is a student at Yuying Secondary School. Her youngest, Ms. Nur Ramadhan Abdullah, 11, is a student at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS).
However, Ms. Nur Ramadhan often gets epilepsy attacks (also known as seizures) since she was around two years old and as a result, she is required to be hospitalized often.
Mdm Noorridah has also been caring for her younger sister who was born with disabilities for about 15 years, since the passing of their parents. Her sister, however, is rather independent and helps her with household chores such as cooking rice.
According to Mdm Noorridah, she only works part-time, from 7.30am to 12.30pm from Monday to Friday as well as on Sunday, as she spends the evenings caring for her youngest child and sister.
As a result, Mdm Noorridah’s income is low; she earns around $800 to $900 a month and it is not enough to cover her daily expenses and her youngest child’s medical expenses.
This prompted her to apply for financial assistance from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) at Al-Mawaddah Mosque, located in Sengkang, back when she was staying at her sister’s place.
Her application was approved, and she has been receiving Muis’ Zakat Financial Assistance since 2010. When she moved to her rental flat located at Hougang, her application for financial assistance was transferred to En-Naeem Mosque.
Unable to meet the needs of her dependents
Sharing about her life before receiving the Muis Zakat Financial Assistance, Mdm Noorridah said, “the challenge was very tight (financially) because my youngest child suffers from seizures. Her medicine is very costly. The cost of the syrup and pills for three months is about $3,000 to $4,000.”
For that reason, she is very grateful for the Zakat Financial Assistance that she receives from Muis.
“Sometimes, I can’t fulfil the wants of my children (food) – sometimes, they want pizza or prawns. I will buy for them first. Thankfully, when it comes to food, they are not picky and they can eat rice with soy sauce,” Mdm Noorridah shared.
“Afterwards, I will use the remaining money to pay the household bills, transport fares, and so on,” she added.
As a mother, Mdm Noorridah prioritises her children’s needs.
“Let the mother starve, rather than the children. When I receive the monthly cash assistance from Muis, I buy food for them first. I know what they like to eat, so I buy chicken, eggs, instant roti prata, popcorn, and so on,” said Mdm Noorridah.
Mdm Noorridah’s experience in caring for two special-needs persons is bittersweet.
“Of course, there are bitter and sweet moments. I just take it as it is. Both are special and they are both different in their own ways. Sometimes, they are stubborn and sometimes, they can be funny too. My youngest would tease her aunt, but when they get angry, they would hit each other. There lies the bittersweet moment,” said Mdm Noorridah.
She added that she learned a lot of patience while caring for the two.
“If she has a seizure, she may scratch, punch, or hit me. I will usually let her hit me first but when I cannot stand it any longer, I will also slap or pinch her,” she said.
“Whenever she cries, I cry too – why did I slap her? If I could, I would not have hit her. Later, at night when she goes to bed, she will say, ‘I want Mom, I love you’,” said Mdm Noorridah.
Striving to make her children happy
Inevitably, she worries about the fate of her youngest daughter in the event that she is no longer around. However, she constantly thinks positively and strives to inject happiness in her children’s lives.
“If we have extra money, I would bring the kids out. We would sit by the East Coast beach or visit the Singapore Zoo,” said Mdm Noorridah, who attends the program at En-Naeem Mosque once a month.
Before ending the interview with Mdm Noorridah, she expressed her gratitude to the zakat payers and to Muis.
“They help us when life is difficult. The financial assistance is not for me to enjoy, but for my children’s expenses, especially my special-needs child. I am grateful for what I have,” Mdm Noorridah said.
Mdm Noorridah falls in two of the categories of 8 asnaf who have rights over Zakat – asnaf fakir and miskin.
Asnaf Fakir and Miskin refers to one who has insufficient means of livelihood to meet his or her basic needs and the Zakat disbursement includes monthly financial assistance, special assistance during Ramadan, and supportive programme grants.
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