The strength of one woman's fire
Updated: Mar 23
“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.” – Mark Anthony
In celebration of International Women’s Day, here’s introducing 35-year-old Aishah, single mother to 4 children, the youngest being 5-year-old this year, and sole caretaker of her elderly father who has both speaking & visual impairment. If anyone could encapsulate the strength captured by the quote above, it would definitely be her.
For Aishah, the already stressful burden of being a sole caretaker is amplified by the constant supervision her father required for basic tasks - no matter the time of day (or night). Busy days with no breaks were often followed by disrupted nights. In addition, as she has been on mandatory medical leave for the last five years due to mental health issues, she was unable to apply for official employment which has dealt a blow to her finances.
To circumvent this, the ever-creative and resilient Aishah started her own home business baking pastries and cooking Malay cuisine for hotel functions and other customers, most of whom are neighbours and friends of her children. With her limited time already stretched from caretaking duties, she uses her precious pockets of free time on the weekends and on weekday nights to run the business.
“I do everything at night. All prepared at night, then in the morning I just cook. Every night, I sleep at 4 o'clock. I sleep for 2 hours only.”
Aishah also wistfully told us about how she really enjoyed her previous job in customer service, and found great joy in speaking to other people and getting to know them better. For the extroverted Aishah, losing that part of her life grieved her. But she expressed great resolve to prioritize her recovery and family’s wellbeing and held no resentment.
When asked how she gets by, Aishah shared that she is constantly exhausted, but her family is always at the forefront of her mind. She shared that her goal is to earn enough money to buy a bigger flat, so that the whole family has more space to live in.
Aishah’s big-hearted and compassionate spirit shone in her determination to provide a better life for her family despite the uncertainties and odds against her. Her kindness went beyond blood ties too – each time she could, Aishah would volunteer with a local community group to deliver food to elderly residents living in her neighbourhood.
If her neighbours needed assistance, she would also not hesitate to render help. For example, staying in the unit directly opposite Aishah’s is an elderly living alone. Whenever he requires help with his television for example, Aishah will step in without complaint.
So, it was really a great honour that Habitat Singapore was able to support such an inspiring woman in her life. Around two weeks ago, Aishah’s father was sent home from the day care as bedbugs were found on his body. After closer inspection of the home, Aishah realised that there was a bedbug infestation in the sofa bed used by her father, her son’s room and under the wallpaper of the home.
She initially tried to tackle the issue by herself – removing the wallpaper, throwing out infested furniture, cleaning the home… but she found herself unable to rid the infestation alone and with limited time due to her caretaking responsibilities.
“Then my house got bedbugs – I was so stressed. Because my home, got my father, then my son… I don’t know what to do. Some more I’m a single parent, cannot do a lot of things. Need to look after my father, need to look after my son…I didn’t know what to do. Felt like I wanted to burn the house. Because I was so stressed – cannot sleep at night you know. I switched on all the lights you know. When you switch off, my son will say, “Mama, itchy, Mama, itchy”. That made me so stressed, I couldn’t sleep at night.”
She finally was linked up with Habitat Singapore, who sent in a fumigation team & volunteers to eradicate the bedbugs once and for all.
To Aishah – you are not alone, and it was a privilege to have been a part of your life’s journey. We are so inspired by your fiery strength and kindness which radiates light to the people in your life. The closeness you share with your children and father is testament. And the way your 5-year-old son follows in your footsteps, going out of his way to take care of his grandfather, illuminates how great you have been as a role model in the household.
May your fire continue to burn bright, Aishah.
This International Women’s Day, we invite you to support inspiring homeowners like Aishah who would really benefit from a helping hand to support them on their life’s journey. Donate today at habitat.give.asia!