"I wanted everything to be natural"

Madam Saridah Abdullah, with her five children. Her youngest child, Fadirah, is one of the 60 children on the Formula To Grow scheme.
PHOTO: "I wanted everything to be natural"

Having the cost of milk powder covered every month may not seem like a lot to some.

But to Madam Saridah Abdullah, it is a godsend.

The mother of five found out that her 16-month-old daughter, Fadirah, is one of the 60 children eligible for the Formula To Grow scheme.

Launched yesterday, the initiative provides formula milk powder to eligible children from disadvantaged families in Central Singapore district. (See report above.)

Madam Saridah, 36, said that with her husband earning $1,200 monthly as a private bus driver, they struggle to make ends meet.

The housewife tries to help the family of seven with what she earns from her online baking business, which comes to about $300 monthly.

She said: “My husband has to pay $600 in maintenance fees for his previous marriage. The balance is needed to settle the children’s needs.”

Their children range in ages from 16 months to nine.

In addition, there is the monthly rent for the two-room Toa Payoh flat that needs to be paid, Madam Saridah added.

Being put on the Formula To Grow scheme means she gets free milk powder till Fadirah turns three.

Before the introduction of the scheme, the family spent between $120 to $150 on milk powder, depending on Fadirah’s needs, Madam Saridah said.

She started Fadirah, whom she used to breastfeed, on formula milk just last month after enrolling in cooking and sewing classes to upgrade herself.

Cooking course

The cooking course, which involves four-hour classes held every Saturday, is paid for by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

Fadirah may have adjusted to the taste of formula milk now, but just a month ago, Madam Saridah was still hesitant and worried about switching from breast milk to formula milk.

She said: “I wanted to breastfeed her all the way as I wanted everything to be natural. I was also worried that Fadirah would not be able to adapt to the taste of the formula milk, or that it would not be suitable for her.

“But I have no choice as I have to make plans for the future.”

Her four other children were breastfed, she added.

Other than the Formula To Grow scheme, her other four children — two daughters and two sons — are on Care Corner’s School Pocket Money Fund.

While efforts like the Formula To Grow scheme are useful, Member of Parliament Denise Phua said it is only part of an “integrated solution” that low-income families need.

“What is more disturbing is that sometimes families fall through the cracks because they don’t get a full total solution,” said the mayor of Central Singapore district.

“They get piecemeal solutions that help them just react to the situation, but do not help them get out of the poverty cycle permanently,” the Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP explained.

“Our job is to make sure that, together with the whole network of partners, that no child is left behind,” she said.

The Central Community Development Council will work with family service centres and social service offices — an integrated approach — to develop this solution, she added.

About the scheme

With an initial funding of $100,000 from residents and corporate sponsors for the Formula To Grow initiative, 60 children in Central Singapore district will get free milk powder until they turn three.

Launched yesterday in line with World Milk Day, the initiative aims to provide a sustained source of funding to help children from disadvantaged families ensure they get the right amount of nutrition.

These families were identified by family service centres in Central Singapore district and they have a household income of $2,500 and below.

Ms Denise Phua, the district’s mayor, said that this early childhood intervention programme offers children a chance to maximise their developmental potential.

Thanking donors and residents who contributed to the fund, she added: “It is important that our community comes together to assist these children before it is too late.”

fjieying@sph.com.sg