Monday March 31, 2008
A life-line for single parents
By LIM CHIA YING
A YOUNG mother loses her husband – the family's sole breadwinner – suddenly, leaving her at a loss as to what she should do.
All these years, she has been a housewife, staying home to care for her four children, but on the fateful day, she is forced to take on her husband's role when he drowns.
This was the nightmare that 30-year-old Rainah Kinsang faced. As if coping with the trauma of her loss was not enough, the Sabahan had to get back on her feet quickly to find a way to pay the bills and put food on the table for her children.
Thankfully for Rainah and her school-going children, hope came in the nick of time – in the form of Jumble Station, a community outreach initiative founded by three women dedicated to helping single parents in need.
Mary Anne Tan, Sanice Yap and Lim Lian See had come up with the idea of opening a centre to sell items, donated by the public, at very cheap prices to raise funds for single parents, leveraging on the experience they had with jumble sales.
“We realised that in many cases, single mums in particular require cash to pay for their immediate needs like gas to cook and groceries, and to settle their electricity bills or house rent, as they have no source of income without their husbands,” said Tan.
For Rainah, Jumble Station, which opened in August last year, is a godsend. She now helps out at the centre located at Angsana Flats in USJ 1 and is paid a monthly allowance. Her children study at the nearby SJK (C) Chee Wen so she walks them to school.
Occasionally, Tan and Lim would give her bottles of hair conditioner donated by members of the public. Rainah is always delighted and extremely grateful for this, as she says the conditioner makes her hair very smooth.
“Single parents like Rainah fall below the radar, are scattered all over, and are rarely exposed to items like conditioners that may be ordinary to us but are a luxury to them.”
Lim stresses that Jumble Station is not a welfare organisation. She prefers to refer to Tan and herself as social entrepreneurs, whose aim is to help meet single parents' emergency needs.
“We'll help pay urgent bills and look after them for several months before linking them up with the relevant authorities, like churches or other organisations.
“Currently, we are supporting five or six single parents. We would first assess their situation and financial needs, by making house visits and talking to their neighbours, to ensure that our funds are extended only to genuine single parents,” said Lim, who is a single mother herself.
“But, more than just meeting their financial needs, our centre is also designed to give single parents items that they need, which they would otherwise have to buy.”
She added that Jumble Station was also about empowerment, so that single parents could be financially independent in the long term, either by owning or running small businesses.
Tan said one of the questions they were most often asked was why single parents did not look for jobs to earn an income.
The reason, she said, was that most of them had very young children who could not afford to let their mum out of their sight.
“The children have already lost their father, and they are sometimes too young to understand. So, if their mum is not around either, what do you think would happen?
“Also, there is the problem of logistics. The low-income families certainly cannot afford cars and some places are not accessible without your own transport. It is therefore not because they don't want to work but because of circumstances. This is something which people must understand,” she continued.
According to Tan, the centre accepts almost everything, but the items at the top of their list are electrical goods, a fridge, hi-fi player, microwave oven, ovens, cake mixers, sewing machines, computer CPUs, handphones, sofas, beds and mattresses.
A myriad of items, like clothes, bags, shoes, house decor items and even television sets can be found here, some neatly stacked on display shelves contributed by Hai-O.
“Sometimes single mums tell us that they would like to bake cakes or sew clothes to sell but currently, we do not have sewing machines or ovens to let them do so.
“So, it would really help if anyone could donate these items. I believe that everyone has something in their home which may not be of value to them but would be to others,” she added.
Tan said she would like to collaborate with companies whereby firms could have a collection day once every three months or six months and encourage their staff to bring any household items, and Jumble Station would come by to collect the items and sell them at the centre.
An interesting ongoing effort is the trade-up concept, which Tan explained was somewhat like barter trade but the items swapped would increase in value each time.
“It's something that no one has done before. We started off by posting online our RM5 toy train and anyone could join in this fun charity effort by trading off their unwanted stuff, just as long as the item is better or more expensive that the previous item.
“We are now at the stage of the watch item and it will continue until, hopefully, we achieve our objective - our swap for a van! We really need a van to ferry the single parents around and to collect items because we are so handicapped without one now,” said Tan.
Jumble Station is located at F1-01-05, Block F, Angsana Flats, Subang Mewah USJ 1. Its operation hours are from 11am to 9.30pm, Mondays to Saturdays, and from 3pm to 9.30pm on Sundays.
To help or to find out more, call Tan at 016-220 2958 or Lim at 012-387 1757, or visit www.jumblestation1.blogspot.com.