Volunteer recounts tale of Singapore’s urban poverty involving a migrant single mother and her son

Photo: Amanda Chong / Facebook

Founded in 2014 by three young lawyers, literacy programme ReadAble helps to arm children from low-income families with skills in language, creativity, and interpersonal interactions.

One of its founders — 29-year-old Deputy Public Prosecutor Amanda Chong — recently took to Facebook to impart a personal encounter she had with one of her students and his mother, as well as the distressing circumstances they were in.

But being an award-winning poet and accomplished writer, Chong’s tale is as beautiful to read as it is heart-wrenching to take in. The gist of her experience involves Chong visiting the home of an 11-year-old student and his migrant single mother. The mother works nights shifts as a kitchen runner in various hotels and has not been able to sleep properly due to stress-induced insomnia — worsened by chronic body aches and a salary dispute. As for her son, his maturity belies his age, and Chong held a pensive conversation with the boy.

It was when military helicopters flew in the skies above them with the Singapore flag (rehearsals for the National Day Parade), that Chong had an emotional realization.

“I could not help but think, yes, this is Singapore too — with its dizzying progress but also hidden urban poverty, invisible hand-to-mouth toiling in the kitchens of our glitzy hotels, and boys who fall asleep by doorsteps while waiting for their mothers to return home from night shift.”

Read her piece below.

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