“Previously, money was very important to me. But now, even though we don’t have much, I’ve learned to appreciate the little blessings in life.”
Joanna Yap wakes up each morning hoping the day would be a better one for her two children. Something I’m sure many mothers do for theirs.
But unlike many others, Joanna is a single mum.
She has an elder daughter, Alicia, who’ll be taking her O’s this year, and a younger daughter, Amelia, with special needs.
Before her divorce, Joanna had been living the life. She had a good paying job as an engineer, owned a car, and money wasn’t an issue. But for the sake of her two daughters, she traded-in her high-flying career to spend more time with them. Now, she’s a part-time assistant teacher in a preschool.
“I did that because I needed to take care of my children, especially Amelia, who is diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay [a condition where the child is perceived to have slower intellectual development than what is considered ‘normal’]. It’s a huge cut in my pay, but I had to make a decision. And I feel that I made the right one,” said Joanna.
Gleaming with pride, she told me that Alicia harbours the ambition of becoming a doctor.
Alicia recently received a bursary award from the Education Services Union, co-funded by the U Care Education Co-Funding scheme. The family also benefits from other U Care assistance programmes such as U Stretch and Back to School vouchers, which has helped to alleviate their financial burden.
Joanna told me, “I believe Alicia can achieve her dreams. I’m very proud of her. She’s a very strong, intelligent young lady. Of course, she would sometimes ask me why we have to be like this.
“Like many young girls her age, she would want to go out with her friends to watch movies and do what teenagers like. But she understands that it’s too expensive for us now.”
A Special Gift
As for Amelia, her special needs come with a special gift. Her talent for swimming has seen the 10-year-old win dozens of competitions.
That explains the trophy case full of gold and silver medals I saw when the family invited me to their cosy home in the western part of Singapore.
She may have special needs, but there was something that struck me about Amelia. She seemed focused and determined.
Joanna told me that Amelia trains four days a week but never complains about being tired. Her goal is to one day represent Singapore as a para-athlete.
“Although she is not academically inclined, she has a talent for sports. She has huge potential to go far.
“Before this, I didn’t know what she could do when she grows up. But I went to watch the ASEAN Para Games last year and felt a renewed sense of hope for my daughter. I saw so many athletes with conditions similar to my daughter’s and there they were, representing their countries at the highest sporting level. I hope she will achieve that for herself,” said Joanna.
Her selfless love for her children showed when she said to me, “I’m proud of them. I want my children to be the best they can be. I want them to be happy. I want them to succeed in what they do”.
It tells me that Joanna wants nothing for herself, but hopes to give everything to her children.