When Kampung@Simpang Bedok was set up at Bedok Market Place last year, the hawker centre was a social enterprise meant to help the less fortunate get a livelihood.
It paid those like Madam Salamah Hassan, 51, who is hearing and speech impaired, to run a stall.
But Madam Salamah's dreams of earning a decent salary have been put on hold indefinitely after the hawker centre, on the second storey of Bedok Market Place, closed down suddenly last month.
Using a combination of sign language and written messages, Madam Salamah told The New Paper on Friday that she found out about the closure on the last day of the hawker centre's operation.
The mother of three boys, aged between 10 and 15, said she worked at the hawker centre for eight months running a Malay food stall.
She said she diligently searched the newspapers every day for a new job, but without much success.
"I used my phone to send text messages out. It was very hard," she said.
"Often, I got no responses. I want to work only at places selling halal food and this made my job search more difficult."
She contacted between 20 and 30 food and beverage (F&B) outlets before finally landing a job last Tuesday as a kitchen helper at a Malay food stall at Amoy Street Food Centre.
EARNING LESS NOW
Working between 9am and 4.30pm, five days a week, she earns $7 an hour.
This is less than the $1,500 salary which she used to receive monthly when she worked at Kampung@Simpang Bedok, she said.
She does not know how much her husband, a 48-year-old delivery rider for a fast-food restaurant, earns.
But she admitted that life is more difficult as the family is now earning less.
Said Madam Salamah: "I'm a trained cook. I prefer cooking and baking to being a kitchen helper. But at least I have a job."
Other hawkers, such as Miss Foo Yong Peng, 19, who used to work at a drink stall at the hawker centre, are still jobless.
Miss Foo said that she was terminated on Oct 12 and was told only four days earlier.
"To tell you the truth, I'm not that surprised that the hawker centre closed down. Business there was not very good," she said.
Miss Foo used to earn $1,000 a month at the hawker centre. An only child, she has to take care of her parents, both in their 50s, who are not working.
For now, they have to dip into their savings and it is getting harder to settle household bills, she said.
She wants to continue working in the F&B industry and has since applied to work at a few restaurants.
All of them told her that they would call her back, but none have, she said.
Heaving a sigh, Miss Foo said: "Maybe it's because I have only a Secondary 2 education.
"I definitely will miss working at Simpang Bedok. I made a lot of friends there."
About the hawker centre
When contacted by TNP last Thursday, the managing director of Best of Asia, Mr Lionel Lye, 54, declined to comment on the reason for the closure of Kampung@Simpang Bedok, saying he would provide more information at a later date.
Here are 5 things about the place:
1. Best Asia, an F&B social enterprise started by a group of 12 friends, runs Kampung@ Simpang Bedok, Singapore's first privately-run hawker centre.
2. The group reportedly invested $500,000 in the hawker centre, which started operating last October.
3. It is on the second storey of the Bedok Market Place, where business was reportedly poor.
4. It has 32 stalls and can seat 800.
5. Some tenants paid rent of up to $3,288 a month, depending on their financial background, and got to keep their profits. Those who were unable to pay rent were instead paid a salary to operate the stall until they were able to take over.
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