She says, “I’m not a professional cook, but I will cook for the girls like they are my family”
Siti Rokiyah is the resident chef at HCSA Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre, where she plans and prepares meals for the girls and staff from Monday to Saturday. Here is a day in the life of Siti and her reflections on her Dayspring journey.
5.30 AM: Prepare the kids for school
Siti wakes up and immediately thinks about her kids. She gets them out of bed and into the shower, and then prepares food for them. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, a must-have at home for my kids,” she says. After they are clean and fed, they are sent to childcare and school.
8.30 AM: Visit the supermarket
Siti makes her way to the supermarket to buy fresh ingredients for the meals she will prepare at Dayspring. “Thank God for Grab and Gojek!” she says. “Last time, it was so hard to flag down a cab by the roadside, I actually cried a few times!”
“One day, I saw the Dayspring ad in the newspapers for a cook. I called them. My interview was set on 31 January 2011.
I couldn’t find the location at first, but Director of Dayspring, Ms Kim Lang, picked me up. We went to a coffeeshop for the interview.
Later, we went to look at the Dayspring centre. There, I also met Dayspring Management Committee Chairperson Ms Dominique. I shared with them that I want to provide well for my kids. I also told them that it’s important for me to take urgent leave if anything happens to my mum or kids. They understood everything.
The good news came very soon: I was hired! I started work on 2 February 2011 at 11 AM. The night before, I couldn’t sleep. I was so nervous!”
11.00 AM: Cook lunch for the Dayspring girls and staff
A busy day at Dayspring begins. The ingredients are set on the kitchen table, the utensils are taken out. Siti is going to cook up a storm. She doesn’t have professional culinary experience, but she was still hired enthusiastically by Dayspring back in 2011 for a good reason …
Why she was hired
“During my job interview with Dayspring’s Kim Lang and Dominique, I honestly told them, ‘I’m not a professional cook, but I will cook for the girls like they are my family.’
It was then that they knew they wanted to hire me.
After 10 years working in Dayspring, I still feel like I’m cooking for my own family every day. They’re another family to me. It doesn’t feel like a job.”
1.00 PM: Break time
Siti takes a well-deserved break and has her lunch too.
Yes, she loves to cook!
“It’s therapeutic. When I have a bad day at home or at the supermarket or anywhere, I cook and forget all the frustrations. Cooking relieves my stress. As long as I cook with my heart, I know that cooking will be a joy for me!”
2.30 PM: Prepare tea break
Soon, the girls at Dayspring will enjoy healthy desserts or snacks lovingly dished up by Siti.
“You know, actually, on my first day at work, I wasn’t very sure what Dayspring was about!
Now, I know. Through the loving environment here, I’ve learnt to be more affectionate. In the past, I didn’t know how to hug someone or say, ‘I love you.’ Today, I’m more expressive about my feelings towards others.
Dayspring has always supported me. I could take last minute urgent leave or time off when I need to check on my kids. Dayspring staff also listen when I tell them about my life. I feel part of a bigger family.”
3.30 PM: Plan the menu for the next day
It’s time for Siti to plan for the next day’s meals, so that she knows exactly what to get at the supermarket the following morning.
She makes all kinds of meals
“The Dayspring girls’ favourites are usually western meals such as chicken burger. As for the Dayspring Management Committee, they like my chicken and beef rendang.”
4.30 PM: Cook dinner for the Dayspring girls and staff
The kitchen bustles with activity again as Siti whips up dinner.
Fond memories at Dayspring
“Once, there was a huge barbecue night – everyone was coming, the Dayspring girls and their families, the staff and the Management Committee.
I was the supervisor responsible for the food, the marination, the flavours. It was my first time preparing for such a large event. At first, I was worried. Deep in my heart, I was like, ‘Can or not? Is it going to be ok?’
In the end, everyone enjoyed the simple and homely taste! At that moment, I knew that I CAN if I put my heart to it. I did it!
Another fond memory is the annual Dayspring retreat. We would go to Telunas, one of the Riau islands, where life feels so free there.”
7.00 PM: Home sweet home
Siti returns to her family. Everyone is home by now – tired from the day’s work or schooling. It takes determination to see through the ups and downs of family life together.
Her family is a part of Dayspring
“One day, I asked my husband to join a Dayspring Family Day. He saw what I do for Dayspring, he saw that I am supporting young girls who need help.
From then on, he has supported me in everything. He also provided some kitchen fans and lights to Dayspring. He became our ‘handy man’!
My kids are also a part of Dayspring. My son is like a Dayspring baby, he grew up with Dayspring, as I brought him to all the Dayspring events. And one of my daughters used to ‘park’ herself at Dayspring to study.”
10.00 PM: Zzz …
Hopefully, all the kids are in bed by now. The day is winding down for Siti. A good night’s rest beckons. In the quiet of the night, she counts her blessings.
Hopes for women like herself
“I hope that women go ahead and pursue what they can and what they want – even if they don’t have education or the right experience.
That’s what my own life journey has showed me.
My role at Dayspring is so small but so meaningful. I’m thankful for the opportunity. You see, a job can be fulfilling if we do it with love.”