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She bakes, cooks and sews to make ends meet

They got married in 1994 and he, an odd-job worker for a chemical company, was the primary breadwinner in the family, while she was the homemaker taking care of their one boy and four girls.

When her husband died of kidney failure in September 2018, Ms Hayatt's (not her real name) world turned dark, as she grappled with her grief and wondered how she would provide for her children, now aged between 14 and 22.

The housewife, now 55, had to rely on her extended family and also received financial support from institutions such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Methodist Church in Singapore.

Two initiatives by volunteer welfare group Beyond Social Services also proved invaluable, boosting Ms Hayatt's income and helping her care for the family, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2019, Ms Hayatt signed up for Baker's Beyond, a seasonal bake sale organised by Beyond Social Services, and she earned about $400 every three months.

When the pandemic hit in April 2020, her problems mounted.

All five of her children were crowded together in their two-room Housing Board rental flat, undergoing home-based learning. With only one laptop, some had to take part in online classes using their mobile phones.

Knowing she had to do more, Ms Hayatt, who used to cook on an ad-hoc basis at stalls in the Kampong Glam area from 1998 to 2014, started a baking service with her sister and also launched a catering service for the Hajjah Fatimah mosque.

"I didn't want the anxiety of not knowing whether my children had enough for school the next day any more. I had to stand on my own two feet and be strong for my children," Ms Hayatt said.

During the pandemic, she was also recruited for Sew Can You, a mask-sewing initiative launched by Beyond Social Services. Companies involved in community work would be provided with masks by the organisation.

Noticing that her sewing was rough around the edges, a social service worker urged her to upgrade her skills, and Ms Hayatt was referred to Project Smile, a charity that organises handicraft workshops for underprivileged women.

She registered as a beneficiary in February 2020 and attended weekly classes later that year, learning to sew various items such as cushion covers, table runners and masks.

Samples of the items go on Project Smile's social media accounts and website where people can make online orders.

Some of the products made by the beneficiaries of Project Smile, a charity that helps underprivileged women by providing them with emotional support, handicraft training and financial assistance. ST PHOTO: THADDEUS ANG

Ms Hayatt earns about $50 to $100 per month through this programme, and during Deepavali last year, this income peaked at $400.

"The sewing programme has helped with my finances. Even if it's not much, it's still something, and I can also save some of it," said Ms Hayatt.

"Sewing is more like therapy to me. When I see the finished product, I feel like I've really done something. When people order the products I make, I feel proud," she added.

charitiesFINANCIAL AID