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Christina Soosai is determined to care for the children at Ephratha home.

Their meals are mostly rice and vegetables, but the 30 children at Ephrata home do not complain.

They know times are hard, and their caretaker Christina Soosai cannot afford to buy chicken and vegetables.

"They don't ask for anything. We don't have that many toys to entertain them with. When it's playtime, they make up their own games. This year, we could not buy them school books. It breaks my heart to see them wear clothes that are old and worn-out, but we really cannot afford to shop for these little luxuries," shares Christina who set up the home in 2005 to take in orphans, abandoned children and runaways.

"It's been a struggle, but we somehow managed to scrape by from year to year. Recently though, we've hit a brick wall. The funds just aren't coming in as much as we want them to. We want to give the kids better food, but we can't afford to do so. All we can do is ensure that they have something to fill their tummies with," says Christina, 42.

The children, aged between four and 18, have growing appetites, and feeding them is Christina's biggest concern.

"To be able to feed the children, we would need five chickens, and that is hard to come by. Most of the time, we settle on a vegetarian diet because meat and fish are expensive," says Christina. Their refrigerator was bare except for the ingredients for dinner that evening.

The children's main source of carbohydrates comes from wholemeal bread loaves generously sponsored by a local bread shop. A slice spread thinly with margarine and a sprinkle of sugar often counts as a meal for them.

Inspired by her mother's contributions to the less fortunate, Christina has been running the children's home for almost a decade.

Ephratha does not receive government aid, but is supported by Christina's family and some do-gooders. Christina is a pastor and her husband works as a maintenance man at a golf club. Their eldest daughter Marina, 27, has since stopped working to look after the children while their son Joshua, 21, chips in with his salary as a human resource clerk.

The rise in the costs of living has been hard-hitting on the home. Their expenditures have gone up and requests for donations have been met with silence. Sponsorship is hard to come by these days.

Fortunately, since the beginning of the year, the rental and utility bills for Ephratha are now taken care of by Joshua's employers, construction company Eversendai.

While that has taken a load off Christina's worries, it still costs RM7,600 (S$2,900) to run the shelter monthly, and that's not inclusive of additional expenses like medical bills for some of the children who have asthma and other ailments.

"We do get monetary contributions from time to time, but I can never say for sure when the money will come in. We've sent out hundreds of sponsorship letters, but we've not heard back from them," Christina reiterates.

To raise funds, Christina used to sell keychains decorated by the kids. But they stopped when they ran out of capital to buy the materials needed. Times are hard, but Christina vows to persevere.

"I will never give the kids up or chase them away or let them survive on their own. I'll do everything I can to see them grow up and become successful adults. I would love to care for even more children, but we are already struggling to make ends meet. I will have to think twice before accepting anyone new into the home."