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Wednesday, 16 May 2018 00:00

Single Mother Makes Income through Sale of Cookies

Written by  Low Siew Lian, Malacca / Translated by Connie Ong

When baking festive cookies for Tzu Chi, Yati realized that it could be her additional source of income. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

With Eid al-Fitr approaching, Tzu Chi Malacca invited an Indonesian woman, Yati Anon, to make festive cookies for the care recipients, so that she can make some income to support her family.


On May 16, 2018, at around 10 am, after Yati Anon finished selling her nasi lemak (coconut milk rice), she started to bake festive cookies while listening to the radio. She said smilingly, “The radio helps to rid my loneliness and fear. If I only sit at home, I would cry thinking of my late husband, who passed away recently. So it is best to do some work and earn some income. This keeps me occupied and stops me from thinking too much.”

Timely assistance from Tzu Chi

Yati, who hails from Indonesia, has lived in Malaysia for more than 18 years. Her late husband, Abdullah Halim Fong bin Abdullah, is a Chinese Muslim. They were together for almost 18 years before her husband lost his battle to liver cancer on January 17, 2018. Tzu Chi volunteers accompanied and assisted her with her husband’s funeral even though they were not related in blood.

Prior to her husband’s demise, the family relied on the husband’s income from scavenging, supported by extra income from Yati with the work she did at home, including making pastries. They could hardly make ends meet. For example, when Yati needed to return to Indonesia to renew her passport, the family did not have the means to pay their utility bills for that month.

Now, having to support the family’s livelihood single-handedly, Yati could only lift herself out of grief. She makes a meagre income of RM30 to RM60 selling nasi lemak and curry puffs in front of her house daily. She also takes up cleaning jobs to make extra income. To save money, she also tried to fix the faulty electrical plugs of home appliances herself. While two of her children are serious in their studies, her eldest son, who is in Form 5, has no interest in his studies. So, he would just follow his uncle to work and earn some money. It worried Yati thinking of his future.

Yati said, “There are many things in life that we need to face by ourselves. There are things we could find solutions for, but when it comes to money, it is a dead end if we are penniless. I can’t seek assistance from Tzu Chi volunteers and trouble them all the time. So I would try to find solutions and learn little by little to ease my burden…”

Tzu Chi Malacca began to care for this family in 2011. Two years later, when the couple had stable jobs, the financial assistance was terminated. Unfortunately in 2016 when Abdullah fell sick, the family again faced financial difficulties. Thus, Tzu Chi again extended help to them. Last year, Tzu Chi began to engage its care recipients to help produce festive cookies so that they could earn some extra income. So Yati seized the opportunity.

This year, she needed to produce 138 cans of cookies to be given to Tzu Chi’s Muslim care recipients along with other Eid al-Fitr gifts for the celebration in June. She was rather nervous, and on May 5, she requested volunteer Tan Kim Hee to send her to purchase the baking ingredients.

She informed, “The ingredients are available at the provision shops near my house, but they come in small packages, thus are more expensive.” Even at the wholesaler shop, she still made price comparisons to save as much as possible.

Interest turns into source of income

The new mixer and oven that Yati is using were purchased with the income from the sale of cookies last Deepavali. In fact, it was her late husband’s idea to buy a new mixer with the extra income, as the old one was left with only one beater.

When she was storing the cookies in the jars, the weather turned gloomy. She shared that the jungle behind her house is also home to snakes and wild boars; and when it rains heavily, the rainwater would splash into the interior of the house, so she would have to move to another corner of the house to continue her baking chores. Upon volunteers’ suggestion, and in consideration of her children’s transportation to school, she is now looking for a safer place in close proximity to the school.

She remarked, “These cookies are for Tzu Chi’s care recipients. It gives me an opportunity to repay Tzu Chi’s kindness. While helping others with my baking skills, I also earn an extra income. How lucky I am!”

Every day, Yati would bake the cookies until around 4 pm. Then, she would start to prepare the ingredients for her food stall the following day. She plans to get the cookie orders done in two weeks’ time. She shared that she learnt to make cookies from a TV programme and later on Facebook. Slowly, her interest in baking developed, and when Tzu Chi engaged her to produce the festive cookies, she realized that it could be her source of extra income in addition to selling nasi lemak and pastries in the morning. She has even bought some pastry moulds for that purpose.

She expressed, “Thank you, Tzu Chi. Although we are not related in blood, the volunteers have treated us like their family members and assisted us in many ways.” Yati is the second wife of her late husband. As they did not register their marriage, their three children are not recognized local citizens although they were born in Malacca. Thus, they need to pay higher medical and educational fees.

Before his demise, Abdullah had sought the volunteers’ help to assist Yati in applying for citizenships for his children. For that reason, volunteer Loo Mei Fong has travelled to Kuala Lumpur to follow up on their application status more than once. This March, she also went to the Ministry of Education to pay RM720 of educational fees for Yati’s three children, charged at non-citizen rates.

Yati is grateful for the volunteers’ help. Even though she is deprived of sleep, she knows that things will get better. What is most important is for her children to obtain their citizenships so that they can have a better future.

 

 

Volunteer Loo Mei Fong (left) has been offering assistance and encouragement to Yati (right) and her late husband. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]   Yati is seen here purchasing the baking ingredients in the company of volunteer Tan Kim Hee. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

Volunteer Loo Mei Fong (left) has been offering assistance and encouragement to Yati (right) and her late husband. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
Yati is seen here purchasing the baking ingredients in the company of volunteer Tan Kim Hee. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]
 
Yati’s daughter assisted her in making cookies. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]   Yati is happy to bake for Tzu Chi care recipients with her skills. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

Yati’s daughter assisted her in making cookies. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
 
 
Yati is happy to bake for Tzu Chi care recipients with her skills. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]