Non-profit group Women Make A Difference Ltd extends a helping hand to the widow of the man who died in a freak accident.
Contributed By Annabelle Low
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan|
Singaporeans would remember how on July 16, a 5-meter long crane smashed through the upper left deck of a bus in an unprecedented tragedy at Bedok North Road. The freak accident destroyed nearly all of the upper deck windows, with at least six rows of seats dislodged by the impact.
There was only one casualty, 50-year-old Ahmad Lispa, who was seated on the upper deck in the last row of bus service 87 and was killed in his seat. Mdm. Rokiah Bte Atnen is the 47-year-old widow who suffers from kidney failure and their four sons all have health issues. Her husband was the sole breadwinner of the family of six. He did not have a regular paycheck—his last pay as a part-time cleaner at Changi International Airport was S$300. But now with her husband gone, the family does not have any means of financial support.
Her story has touched many Singaporeans, and it was reported that S$20,000 in cash was raised for the family and many food items were also donated to them. Rokiah and the boys are also supported in kind by the Community Development Council and the National Kidney Foundation, and have their medical and transport needs met.
By a stroke of fate, Theresa Tan, 42, co-founder of Singapore-based non-profit organization Women Make A Difference, happened to drive past the accident site with her husband just five minutes after the tragic accident occurred.
Started in 2004 by a group of women who wanted to help women and children who cannot help themselves, WMD aims to raise awareness and funds for victims of human and child sex trafficking, children-at-risk in Cambodia, women with gynecological cancers and pregnant moms with HIV/Aids.
In July, WMD started a campaign to get as many people as possible to commit to supporting Rokiah for 24 months with a monthly sum. Donors just have to donate S$1 a day or S$30 a month to help pay for Rokiah’s and her children’s daily needs for two years. The idea of contributing a monthly amount is so that there will be a sustainable stream of income. The monies go direct from the donor into Rokiah’s bank account.
The organization will provide donors with updates on Rokiah and her family on a quarterly or half-yearly basis, so that they are informed of what is going on in their lives and how they have become an important part of their daily existence.
Says Tan, “Mdm. Rokiah lost her husband in a freak bus accident. She is a kidney disease patient, and has four sons, all of whom have medical problems. I drove past the accident site five minutes after it happened, and was horrified the next day to read that there was a single fatality—Mdm. Rokiah’s husband. Our [WMD’s] purpose for existence is to look out for women and children who cannot look after themselves, and this effort was the small part we could play in fulfilling our mission.”
On Sep. 8, City News followed WMD to visit Rokiah. The organization had 21 donors by that date, and the purpose of the visit was to present the list to Rokiah and her family. Donations had begun from July and the campaign is an ongoing one.
Hirman Bte Atnen, Rokiah’s brother, greeted the group of visitors, and played the role of translator, since his sister speaks no English.
When the team arrived, Rokiah was about to help her second son with his dialysis treatment. Mohd Nasir, who is 18 years old but looks 12, has to be hooked up to the dialysis machine for 10 hours each night, during which he cannot move. The flat must be clean, Hirman explained, or the hospital would not allow the dialysis machine in the house. “The doctor said that my nephew only had four years to live. It has now been five years,” said Hirman.
Each of Rokiah’s sons were born normal, but gradually began to display symptoms of developmental problems by the age of 8 or 9. Her eldest son was admitted to Institute of Mental Health but did not show signs of improvement, and so the family brought him back home to care for him. Her third son is in a special school, and the youngest, Khairul, has just gone through tests for his IQ.
As a widow, Rokiah has had to remain at home for 40 days after her husband’s death. She does not have anyone else, but fortunately, her family—her parents, four siblings and nephews and nieces—provide daily help. Her sister, Liya Atnen, 44, takes calls and arranges appointments on Rokiah’s behalf.
Almost everyday, somebody stops by to check in on how they are doing and to offer them assistance, Hirman said, even strangers. The children are all getting help at school, and the NKF is offering assistance, as is the CDC.
“We cannot express our thanks for the overwhelming generosity of Singaporeans,” said Hirman. He indicated towards an impressive pile of rice, cereal and drinks in the kitchen, all donations. “We have so much that we share it with people who need it, because there is an expiry date on these things.”
However, he also expressed his concern regarding the number of websites that have been popping up on the Internet, claiming to be collecting donations in support of Rokiah. Some sites ask people to transfer money to a bank account number, but very few people have contacted the family regarding donations. He is afraid that opportunists may take advantage of
the situation and generosity of Singaporeans to earn a quick buck.
To circumvent this problem, WMD has a copy of Rokiah’s account statement as proof that donors are giving directly into her account and not through a third party.
Tan presented Rokiah with the initial list of 21 confirmed donors, all of whom have pledged to do a direct credit from their bank account into Rokiah’s by standing order for the sums of S$30. A few have committed to giving S$50.
How You May Help
WMD aims to keep growing this campaign with new donors joining every month, so that support for Rokiah will last longer than two years.
Donors can donate S$30, S$50 or S$100 on a monthly basis to Rokiah through a standing instruction with the bank. Donors are also welcome to give more than the suggested amounts, and for longer than two years.