Of a Single Mother’s Selfless Love and Sacrifice

In spite of challenges she had faced in her life thus far, 50-year-old Mdm Tan, HCSA Dayspring SPIN (Single Parents INformed, INvolved, INcluded) alumni member, still endeavours to help where she can, inspired to give back the support she and her family had once received when they needed it most.
Mdm Tan’s childhood was far from ideal.
Having grown up at a residential home in the Salvation Army, self-dependency and survival were all she knew for the first 16 years of her life. After leaving the group home in her late teens, she was left to largely fend for herself.
The turning point came when she crossed paths with her now ex-husband and became friends. Eventually, out of the need for survival, the two eventually wedded, with the hopes of achieving a better and more promising future for themselves.
Harsh reality sets in
The marriage painted a fresh start for the couple, and Mdm Tan soon found herself tasked with the challenges and responsibilities of parenthood. Having to care for her growing family was difficult, more so with the constant struggle of putting food on the table at every meal. Despite the financial hardships of raising a family, she remained immensely dedicated to her role as a mother, even going as far as to work three jobs in a day just so she could provide for her children.
Recalling the periods when she had to face life’s obstacles alone, she remembers a time when she would cry at the playground below her rental flat to hide her emotions from her children. She shares: “Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through. None of my family and friends actually knew what I was going through. Perhaps I was able to survive the tough times due to the hardships I had gone through in my childhood.”
Due to the irreconcilable relationship with her ex-husband, Mdm Tan eventually filed for divorce and was left to tackle the challenges of parenthood and providing for her children on her own. Having braved through most of life’s problems on her own, she was resistant to confiding her struggles with friends, explaining, “After ending my third job of the day, I had no energy and time to do that.”
The turning point
It was only when her fourth child started experiencing troubles in school that she had no choice but to turn to a friend. In 2017, she was introduced to HCSA Dayspring SPIN (Single Parents, INformed, INvolved, INcluded), one of HCSA’s four signature programmes.
Following a detailed needs assessment, SPIN eventually matched her with Lead Ally Befriender* Sharon. Throughout Mdm Tan’s journey with SPIN – and even till after the successful closure of her case – she shares that Sharon still supports her by way of occasional phone calls. 
Besides emotional and psychological support, SPIN ensured that Mdm Tan and her family were provided with necessary essentials during times of need, particularly during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. “SPIN provided me and my family with food rations and other essential items. Even during the COVID period, we received frozen food delivered to my home,” she said.
Mdm Tan is grateful for the support she has received from SPIN thus far. Through regular workshops and activities organised by the programme, she enjoys regularly connecting with other volunteers and fellow single parent members. The opportunities to gain new knowledge on topics that were more relevant to her as a single parent were also something Mdm Tan looked forward to.
Mdm Tan attending one of the 'empowerment' events organised at HCSA Dayspring SPIN in 2022.

“HCSA changed my life for the better. Much of my life became better after that. I had hope and knew that I’m not alone in my troubles. My life (still) isn’t smooth but I’m grateful for all the support that I’ve been given by the SPIN (programme).”

Paying it forward

Today, Mdm Tan and her family gives back the support they’d once received by actively looking out for her neighbours, and even going as far as to provide temporary shelter in her rental home for those in genuine need.

More recently, she made the undertaking to have the legal guardianship of the young child of a known acquaintance, so that he would receive the necessary parental love and care needed to grow up well and healthy.

Mdm Tan’s selfless decision was supported by SPIN and Sharon; together, they worked to help get her pro bono legal advice and representation support from CHP Law LLC, SPIN’s corporate partner. They also linked Mdm Tan with a Family Service Centre (FSC) caseworker who advised her on financial and guardianship issues. In 2022, the FSC presented her with an award in recognition of her generous nature to help others, and also in openly sharing her story to encourage other individuals and families in need.  

Interview and article contribution by Elise Tan (Volunteer Writer).

Article edited by HCSA Community Services.



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