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Teen orphans looking after youngest sibling, selling noodles to survive

MALAYSIA - Having lost both parents within a year, a pair of teenage siblings are now selling wantan noodles so they can fend for themselves and care for their nine-year-old brother.

Yap Jia Hao, 19, said his entire family contracted Covid-19 in September last year.

His father died at the hospital later that month.

In May, the grieving siblings suffered another loss when their mother died of heart complications.

This forced Jia Hao and his 17-year-old sister Zi Yu to start selling wantan mee at a coffeeshop in Jalan Beringin, Taman Melodies, Johor Baru.

“Our late parents were wantan mee hawkers in Taman Century.

“I used to help them out at their stall.

“I cook the dish while my sister serves the customers,” said Jia Hao when interviewed at the stall.

He is also grateful that some of his parents’ loyal customers continue to support his stall.

A typical day for the siblings starts at 5am.

They prepare the ingredients and also get their younger brother, Jia Cheng, ready for school.

“It is quite tiring as we have to head out early from our home in Taman Daya to open the stall by 7.30am.

“After wrapping up the day’s operation at 2.30pm, we will go home and continue preparing our ingredients such as the meat filling for the wantan,” he said.

They usually opt for ehailing rides to get around as they do not have a car.

Jia Hao has just obtained a driver’s licence but has no plans to buy a car just yet.

“A kind-hearted customer offered to let me use his car and after some consideration, I am going to accept as it will help us save money.

“I usually spend RM30 ($9) to RM40 daily on transport alone,” he added.

While he managed to complete Form Five last year, he said Zi Yu dropped out of school to help him at the stall.

The siblings can sell up to 100 bowls of noodles on a good day.

“We have no plans for the future right now as our priority is to survive and ensure that our brother, who is in Year Three, can continue his studies,” said Jia Hao.

Jia Hao helping his brother Jia Cheng with his homework. Jia Hao said he only meets the nine-year-old every fortnight as he currently lives with their aunt.PHOTO: THE STAR

Jia Hao said that his sister Zi Yu was no longer helping him at the stall as their mother’s friend, who runs a beauty parlour, recently took her under her wing to teach her new skills.

While he managed to complete Form Five last year, Zi Yu dropped out of school to help him at the stall before this job came along.

Jia Hao said their brother currently lived with their aunt in Taman Perling.

“Having a relative take care of his meals and needs while he attends school gives me peace of mind,” he said.

“I visit him every fortnight as my stall is closed only once every two weeks on a Thursday.

“I hope to have a weekly rest day in the future so that I can visit Jia Cheng more often, but I am worried about losing my customers,” he added.

His days, said Jia Hao, were tiring as he would start making preparations at 5am before opening his stall at 7am daily.

He also said that a charity NGO had been helping him with legal matters such as transferring the ownership of his parents’ flat in Taman Daya to his name.

He also aims to pay off outstanding utility bills incurred during his parents’ time.

Asked whether the siblings needed any additional assistance, Jia Hao replied: “We do not need anything else at the moment. I just hope customers can continue supporting my wantan mee stall.” - THE STAR

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