Nights with hunger pangs spurred her to help needy

Before becoming a property agent, Miss Noor Mastura and her family suffered five years of financial hardship that got so bad it was a struggle to put food on the table.

After carving out a successful career in real estate and turning things around, she decided to help those going through similar hardship and, in 2013, set up youth volunteer group Back2Basics, which now distributes groceries to more than 40 needy families.

Last night, the 25-year-old was one of nine winners of the Silent Heroes award, given out by the Hillview Civilians Sports Club at its 51st anniversary dinner.

"When food was a problem, there were nights when I would go to sleep hungry," recalled Miss Mastura, who put her studies on hold to support her three sisters and mother.

The family fell on hard times in 2007, when Miss Mastura's mother divorced her stepfather.

While Miss Mastura taught drama, speech and theatre in schools to make ends meet, the family lived with different relatives. But they finally turned the corner in 2012 when Miss Mastura joined her mother in the real estate industry and saved up enough to buy a flat.

"I thought I would never want this to happen to anyone else," she said. "If I ever got out of this situation, I would do something about it."

The Hillview Civilians Sports Club was set up in 1964 as a football club, but has evolved into a community-based group that works with youth, the elderly and the disabled.

Now in its second year, the Silent Heroes award is an extension of its social outreach programmes, which help more than 400 disadvantaged families in Taman Jurong and Bukit Batok.

There were 31 nominees in five categories this year: champions of challenge, pioneers of excellence, pillars of youth, drivers of change and inspiring women.

They were judged by a panel which included Mr Christopher de Souza, an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, and Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, former senior minister of state and current Ambassador to Kuwait.

The awards honour the everyday, unsung heroism of individuals who have served and helped the community in their own way.

Club president M.P. Sellvem said: "We fail to realise that these individuals are working hard in the background, sacrificing their own comfort to be of service to others.

"They are not rich or famous but their contributions are integral and have a huge positive effect."

He added that the awards are a fitting tribute to the origins of the club, which started off as a group of youth who wanted to channel the energy of young people into sports rather than social vices.

Another winner, Mr Thirukumaran Mathialagan, 27, is the singer and songwriter of local band The Voodoo Sound. He was nominated for his volunteer work in Nepal following April's earthquake.

The band took part in a fund-raising effort called Share a Beat, in which local musical groups busked on the streets to raise money for the quake victims as well as Bangladesh and Myanmar's Rohingya refugees and victims of the Nepal quake.

They were able to raise $2,000 for quake victims. But Mr Thiru felt that more could be done, and so he flew to Nepal with two other volunteers to help rebuild a school.

"I realised that sometimes we help but we don't go to the root of the problem," said Mr Thiru. "I don't think it's enough to just give money, which spurred me to go down to the epicentre of things to see the reality for myself."


This article was first published on August 23, 2015.
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