SJI International students raise $50,000 for canteen auntie injured in accident

They noticed that the Malay food stall at their school canteen no longer had the mee rebus that they enjoyed eating.

During assembly, St Joseph's Institution International (SJII) students were told that the stall operator, Madam Jamaliah Yacob, 61, had severely injured her leg in an accident in February and was recovering in Pearl's Hill Care Home.

The news surprised and saddened them. Many of them were fond of the stall operator, who worked alone and had been selling food at their school since 2009.

Mitchell Chan, 17, told The New Paper: "I felt sad when I heard the news. She was a part of our community."

To help Madam Jamaliah with her expenses, the SJII employees started collecting money, calling it the Aunty Jamaliah's Fund.

The students, however, had ideas of their own.

Groups of friends wanted to organise different events to raise funds, so the school put them together into a group of 15.

Their events were announced during assembly.

Ms Frances Powell, the head of service learning for SJII, said: "I felt excited when the students approached me, wanting to do something for the fund.

"Our students are incredibly service-minded."

Many of the students were impressed by how Madam Jamaliah was always friendly and they wanted to do what they could to help her.

Priscilla Layarda, 15, said: "I could do something, so why not?"

The fund-raising efforts started last month, with the Scouts organising a car wash in the school driveway.


The car wash was publicised through the school's newsletter, but news spread and even drivers who were not directly related to the school went by to contribute.

The response was better than expected despite the bad weather that day, which cut short the car-washing session to just 30 minutes.

The Scouts raised over $1,500 from the event.

The fund-raising continued last Wednesday, with the students selling smoothies in the canteen during break time.

They did all the planning themselves, even voluntarily paying for the ingredients, with little guidance from Ms Powell.

Danielle Velasquez, 13, the youngest in the team, said: "I felt really panicky when the sale was underway as there were a lot of students and it got pretty hectic."

The students managed to sell more than 200 cups at $4 each.

The following day was the school's Non-Uniform Day, where students did not have to wear their school uniform to attend classes in exchange for $5 that went to the fund.

The organisers had in store a range of events for Non-Uniform Day.

The students could play a game of table tennis for $2 a set or have a popsicle for $1.

There were also 35 performers lined up for a busking event, entertainment by students for students.

When news first broke about the music busking event, many students offered their help.

Priscilla said: "I initially approached some students to perform for the busking, but after the event was announced during assembly, many other students approached me to ask if they could perform."

While their schoolmates performed, some students went around with tins, collecting money for the fund. The SJII teachers were all pleasantly surprised by the students' eagerness to organise events for the fund.

Shalini Kumar, 17, said: "I am very happy and proud that we have been able to do what we have done so far and that so many students want to help out."

A spokesman for the school said that while fund-raising is not over yet, the students have raised at least $50,000 for Madam Jamaliah.

She added that the fund will be managed by SJII.

"It will provide Madam Jamaliah with money every month and help pay for expenses not covered by insurance or social welfare schemes," said the spokesman.

She can't walk but worries for hubby

She still cannot stand on both feet, three months since the accident that nearly cost her her right foot.

Doctors have told Madam Jamaliah Yacob that it will be a year before she can walk again.

Despite her predicament, the 61-year-old is worried not for herself but for her husband, Mr Mohd Nordin, 69. He suffered a stroke in 2010.

Madam Jamaliah is his primary caregiver as well as the sole breadwinner. The couple live on their own.

Since her accident on Feb 15, the couple have not had an income. Her medical bills are subsidised, but she has used up her Medisave.

The school has found someone else to take over her stall for the time being, said Madam Jamaliah.

The canteen vendor at St Joseph's Institution International (SJII) told The New Paper (TNP): "I just want to get better quickly so I can go home and take care of my husband."


Mr Mohd is living with one of his five children while Madam Jamaliah recovers at Pearl's Hill Care Home.

She said: "It can get lonely and boring here at times. I am used to working and moving around."

Madam Jamaliah was involved in an accident at Geylang Serai Market when she was buying groceries for her stall.

She had been sitting in the back of a parked van, with her legs dangling, when a taxi swerved and crashed into a car parked about 2m behind the van. The vehicle was thrown forward.

That was the last thing Madam Jamaliah saw. Everything after that was a blur to her.

Madam Jamaliah had told TNP in February: "I screamed my lungs out for help. I had never been in that much pain in my entire life.

"I couldn't even look at my foot. I just felt it hanging from my leg."

She was rushed to Changi General Hospital and had metal rods inserted to hold her bones in alignment in her right leg.

Muscle was also transplanted from her thigh to her reattached right foot.

Madam Jamaliah said she was very touched by all the support she has received from SJII and its students.

She said she was very close to everyone there.

"The principal, employees and even students and parents have come to visit me and offer their support."

Her brother, Mr Mohd Yusoff, 51, said his sister is a kind and generous person, so it did not surprise him that people want to help her.

To this day, Madam Jamaliah does not know who caused the accident and has no wish to find out.

Knowing would not change anything, she said.

But she has forgiven whoever the person may be.

For now, she is focused on recovering so she can get back to work and take care of her husband.

This article was first published on May 16, 2016.
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