SINGAPORE - Nur Elliszuwani Mohamad Ali, a The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund beneficiary, wants to pay back by becoming a nurse
Ms Suriati Alias, an assistant manager at a convenience store, had always wanted her eldest child, Nur Elliszuwani Mohamad Ali, to take up nursing.
This month, the 16-year-old started on a nursing course at ITE College East, a division of the Institute of Technical Education.
Ms Suriati, a 37-year-old mother of five, says: "I wanted her to be a nurse because that was what I wanted to be. I couldn't concentrate on my studies because around the age of 14, I started working part-time at McDonald's to help my family. My mum and dad worked as cleaners and I was the oldest of four children.
"I want Elliszuwani to do something useful. Society is helping us out and I want her to help society."
Elliszuwani and two of her younger siblings, Mohamad Irfan Ariffin, 14, and Ellisza Nur Ain, 10, are beneficiaries of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which is into its 15th year.
The family also receives welfare assistance from other organisations.
Ms Suriati's husband, Mr Mohamad Ali Idris, 40, has a paralysed left arm after a hit-and-run accident in 1994 and suffers from other ailments including lung disease, high blood pressure and asthma. He works occasional stints as a relief security guard.
The fund started in 2000 as a community project initiated by The Straits Times to provide pocket money to children from low-income families to help them through school.
Now a full-fledged charity, the fund has helped more than 130,000 children and youth over the years. It expects to disburse close to $8 million to support about 14,000 children and youth this year.
Elliszuwani, who completed her N-level examinations last year, joined St John Ambulance Brigade as a co-curricular activity at Tampines Secondary School. She says: "I wanted to take up nursing because I enjoyed my CCA. It's because of my father as well. He's sick and I want to learn as much as I can to help him."
How has your father and husband's illness affected your family?
Elliszuwani: I feel quite sad, but we are prepared. My father has had several fainting spells over the years. If he collapses again, we know what to do and we can help him. In Primary 4 or 5, I couldn't really study for my exams because my father fell sick and I had to look after my four siblings.
Ms Suriati: When I'm not around, she is the second mother. Besides taking care of the children, she also cooks and cleans the house. She has been doing this since she was in Primary 6.
My husband's illness has motivated us to reach our goals. We want to strive for something much better for our future because life is difficult for us now.
I want to upgrade and take courses, for example, in retail, so I can have a stable pay.