This 76-year-old lady in S’pore raised 42 kids in 40 years
And other amazing stories of foster parents.
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The recent move to give civil servants a day off to volunteer at charities is moving Singapore a step closer to an altruistic society.
After all, the civil service is 82,000-employees-strong and charity leaders are hopeful that the extra day off on top of their annual leave can create a long-term impact.
That said, fostering a kid can be a bridge too far for many. To be able to accept a stranger into the family is not the same as volunteering, say, at a children’s home.
Not only must a foster parent provide a shelter, but also emotional support, care and, and most importantly, love.
The fostering scheme in Singapore has seen more than 5,000 children being taken care of since its inception in 1956.
According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), there are 330 children on the scheme and more than 280 foster parents.
With plans to double its fostering capacity to some 600 kids within the next five years, more foster parents are needed.
Here are some stories from foster parents that will hopefully inspire some to take that first step.
Asiah Mohamed Salleh & Ashraf Koh, recipient of MSF’s Outstanding Volunteer Award
Despite having 10 kids, the parents of Asiah Mohamed Salleh still took in their neighbours’ children, whose parents had financial problem and put them through school.
A generation later, the impact of her parents’ action clearly rubbed off on her. Together with her husband Ashraf Koh, they fostered a total of six children over 11 years, including a child with Down Syndrome, who has been with them since the start.
The couple has three daughters of their own and to them, fostering children is a serious commitment that one must follow through.
“There’s no turning back. I don’t want to take the child and send him back if I don’t like him. These children are not packages that you take if you like and send back if you don’t like,” said Asiah.
Tan Thian Huat and Mary Chan, recipient of MSF’s Outstanding Volunteer Award
Few could have done what Tan Thian Huat and his wife Mary Chan did.
For 13 years, they had been taking care of a boy with congenital disorders. The then two-month old boy was fostered by the couple despite not able to see, walk or talk.
Undoubtedly, raising a kid with numerous disorders was difficult as he had medical appointments and required round-the-clock care. Throw in initially-sceptical family members and the job became more daunting.
Not that the Tans were ever close to giving up and their two daughters came to accept the boy as one of their own as he grew from being an abandoned baby to a child showered with love.
Unfortunately, the boy was diagnosed with neuromuscular scoliosis last year and passed away in April this year, aged 13.
When asked whether they would foster again, Chan said that they need time to grieve.
“I will wait till my heart is okay and not painful anymore.”
3. Thiravingadam Sembugavalie, recipient of MSF’s Long Service Award for volunteering for 40 years
If taking care of eight children isn’t challenging enough, throw 42 foster kids into the mix and you get a perennial migraine.
But before you say “cool story bro”, we are sad to burst your bubble because it’s a true story, bro.
Despite having eight children, Thiravingadam Sembugavalie has fostered 42 children over 40 years.
The 76-year-old of Chinese descent was adopted by an Indian family when she was an infant and chanced upon fostering when she accompanied a friend to the Social Welfare Department.
The rest is history.
She told The Straits Times in Tamil: “I was born a Chinese but adopted by a neighbouring Indian family myself, so I wanted to share my love with all these children.”
She is, however, not the one who has taken care of the most number of foster children. The honour goes to Indranee Elizabeth Nadisen, who raised 45 kids over 35 years.
She was inducted in the Singapore Woman’s Hall of Fame last year.