They needed US$9,000 (S$11,000) to cover the expenses involved in giving a final farewell to their cancer-stricken mother.
That is when sisters Deborah and Sarah Emmanuel, who are in their mid-20s, turned to the Internet to seek donations.
They set up a webpage for a month-long campaign on crowdfunding portal Indiegogo.com on Sunday, hoping to raise money to pay for their mother's funeral, columbarium niche and hospice bills. In their appeal, they admitted "no one owes us anything", but said they and their single mum were in financial difficulties.
Amazingly, US$18,000 poured in, in a day.
"An hour after we started the campaign, it was at US$1,900," said Sarah, 24, remembering her shock. The events organiser had quit her $2,800-a-month job in August and has delayed finding a full-time job to look after her mother. She now waits tables part-time, bringing in about $800 a month.
"By the time I finished my food (late on Sunday), it was US$9,000. I cried at the Adam Road food centre."
On the webpage, Goodbye Beautiful Mummy, the sisters detailed how Ms Sandra Ann Gomes was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer last November, days after she had turned 50. The cancer spread and now she has weeks or days to live, said Deborah, a writer with a non-profit creative firm who earns about $2,000 a month.
The sisters did not expect to touch so many people when they turned to Indiegogo. As of last Monday night, there are 270 donors, giving amounts ranging from US$5 to US$1,000 for a total of more than US$20,000 (S$25,000).
The sisters, who now spend most of their nights at the Assisi Hospice with their mother, calculated they would need $5,000 for the wake and cremation and another $5,000 for the columbarium in the church, and other expenses such as hospice bills.
They are now thinking about what to do with the rest of the money.
Some of it might go to paying for furniture their mother had bought on hire-purchase for her Build-To-Order flat, which she collected her keys to last month, a day before she was hospitalised. They may also donate some of the money raised to the hospice.
Sociologist Paulin Straughan said that such appeals are a "moral contract" between the appealer and those who respond, and hinged on mutual trust.
"People who pledge to such causes are definitely not small-minded people. I'm quite certain that most of them would be happy to let the sisters keep the money, especially if it's a reasonable proposal for the funds they raised, such as donating to another good cause, or offsetting other debts they have."
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