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HEARt of SINGAPORE: Meet Mariah
In 2012, Mariah’s brother, Damien, was imprisoned for an offence he had committed. His heavily pregnant wife and their five children needed urgent support and shelter and Mariah took them in.

Someone thoughtlessly chided Mariah (not her real name) for seeking help when there were others who were worse off than her. The condemnation and shame that came with those dismissive words lingered in Mariah’s consciousness for the next 12 years as she shrunk away from getting assistance, despite how desperate her circumstances became, and gradually became reclusive and depressed. Her turmoil would have remained unknown, unlifted, if not for the intervention of Yellow Ribbon Community Project (YR-CP) volunteers from the Tampines Changkat Grassroots Division who stumbled upon her plight when making a house visit for a separate matter.

“You may say it was a blessing in disguise. Mariah kept her dire financial situation to herself all these years and later took in her brother’s family. It took the first house visit by our Yellow Ribbon Champions, which was meant for her brother and sis-in-law, to unravel the separate plight Mariah and her family were suffering in,” shared 56-year-old Ms Suzana Ahmad, a YR-CP volunteer and grassroots leader at Tampines Changkat.

In 2012, Mariah’s 38-year-old brother, Damien (not his real name), was imprisoned for an offence he had committed. His heavily pregnant wife and their five children needed urgent support and shelter and Mariah took them in without hesitation. Including Mariah’s husband and two school-going children, there were now 10 people and an unborn child living in their flat situated just above Ms Ahmad’s Residents’ Committee office.

“They were living just above us, and we never knew about their real plight even after a few block visits,” added Ms Ahmad. “So, you can imagine how much she kept to herself. She would always tell us everything was alright even when it wasn’t. All because of that unpleasant incident 12 years ago when she was turned away when she sought help.”  

Twelve years ago, Mariah resigned from her job to care for her bedridden mother full-time while her husband supported the family, taking care of their children’s education and her mother’s medical needs with the little wage he had. Mariah’s mother passed away 10 years later, and they could barely make ends meet. Damien’s imprisonment meant they would have to stretch whatever little they had to feed the kids and pay her sister-in-law’s medical bills. “We took them in as we are family, even if we didn’t have much,” said Mariah.

Things got so dire for Mariah and her family that there were times they ran out of money and had to live on plain water alone for days.

Ms Suzana Ahmad (in grey) shares with Home Team News' Mabelle Yeo about her encounters as a grassroots leader and volunteer and how Maria (in black) was pulled out of reclusion through a visit by Yellow Ribbon Community Project volunteers in Tampines Changkat. PHOTO: Heather Leong

One day, her sister-in-law went to a Meet-the-People Session to appeal for an early release for Damien. The request was then relayed to the YR-CP volunteers in Tampines Changkat who promptly conducted a house visit to assess the family’s needs and concerns. It was during this visit to Mariah’s home where Damien’s family was residing in that the volunteers found out about Damien’s sister and her family too.


Ms Ahmad shared how the well-trained, compassionate and empathetic Yellow Ribbon Champions were able to set Mariah’s heart at ease and make her feel safe enough to disclose her sufferings simply by asking the right questions and using the right body language. “The Yellow Ribbon volunteers visited us to help,” added Mariah during the 2014 Yellow Ribbon Community Project Awards and Appreciation Luncheon held on 07 June 2014 at The Chevrons. “At first, I was not sure. I was hesitant to open up because of that unpleasant encounter 12 years ago. But I soon realised they were sincere. I don’t know what happened but I broke down and cried.”

The YR-CP volunteers immediately linked Mariah up with the right support services, assessed her family’s needs and sent food ration packs to them. Three months later, Mariah opened up further and started joining activities organised by the Residents’ Committee headed by Ms Ahmad.  She distributed porridge and Baju Kurung to the needy, took part in block parties, was offered a job as a cleaner and coffeemaker and even joined Tampines Changkat’s Butterfly Interest Group.

Maria (in black) regularly joins Ms Ahmad and other grassroots volunteers on their community activities. PHOTO: Heather Leong

“I learnt how to rear butterflies, do gardening, and even Origami,” shared Mariah, who today exudes more confidence than she did before, and even knows how to take selfies and do social media coverage for their community activities.


Mariah’s brother has since been released after serving time, and is now doing well as a manager. He is raising his children with his wife and determined to set a good example to his kids.

“YR-CP has helped pull Mariah out of her darkness and isolation,” said Ms Ahmad. “If you ask me how important community support is, on a scale of 1 to 10...” 

“I will give 11.”


Find out what else were said by guests during the Yellow Ribbon Community Project Awards and Appreciation Luncheon 2014, HERE.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Mabelle Yeo
  2. 10 June 2014
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