She has fostered five children in the past eight years, and in that time also started a community initiative to help needy families and vulnerable seniors. Housewife Sarimah Amat also runs a programme to provide stationery to needy children here and abroad, has helped orphans in Thailand and Indonesia and organised relief efforts for flood victims in Malaysia.
For her efforts, the 53-year-old was recognised as the inaugural Yishunite of the Year yesterday. Organised by Nee Soon Town Council, the award recognises a Nee Soon GRC resident who has contributed to the community and embodies the spirit of service and giving.
Madam Sarimah, who received the most votes among five finalists in a Facebook poll, had to leave her job as a childcare teacher and silat instructor in 2010 due to a knee injury. Having worked for a decade, she wondered what to pursue next.
She found out about the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s fostering scheme from her brother, and decided to apply. “I wanted to do something that is satisfying to the soul, and not just for monetary value. It is more of helping people out of their predicaments and their challenges,” said Madam Sarimah.
In 2012, she took in a four-year-old girl, who is still living with her. The following year, she took in a three-year-old boy but he died from infantile epilepsy seven months later. In 2014, Madam Sarimah fostered a three-year-old boy for half a year, and in 2015 took in a two-year-old boy for five months. She welcomed a two-month-old girl into her home in 2016, and the child is also still living with her.
Madam Sarimah’s own three children are all grown up. Her eldest child is 29. He is married and he and his wife have a 10-month-old daughter. Madam Sarimah also has a 27-year-old daughter and another son, 25, who is doing his national service in the Singapore Police Force. Her husband, 54, is a construction safety supervisor.
The nine of them live in a mini jumbo flat in Yishun Street 71, which has been home to Madam Sarimah for 35 years now.
Commenting on her fostering, she said: “It is still with a heavy heart that you let them go, but at the end of the day it is time for them to return to their families… I believe while they are with us, in our care, we still have to nurture them with the best knowledge and values.”
Madam Sarimah started a community initiative called Yishun 71 in March this year, to help vulnerable seniors and needy families in 16 blocks in her estate, including by delivering food, taking them for health check-ups and buying groceries for them. She said she is honoured to win the award, and commended her fellow finalists, saying: “The main thing is we’re helping the community. It just makes me more determined to do more and reach out to more people.”
Nee Soon GRC MP Derrick Goh, who chairs Nee Soon Town Council, said: “I’m glad that with the start of Yishunite of the Year, more of Singapore can get to know Yishun as the somewhat quirky but ultimately caring community that we are.”