Reaching out to single mothers

Lyna Mohammad

What initially started with an employment agency’s intention to help combat COVID-19 has led to the opening of a path for single mothers to generate income to support their family.

With contributions flowing in for frontliners, Roze Rohaya Employment Agency diverted the focus to volunteers stationed at the Indoor Stadium of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex and Pusat Bahagia, Community Development Department (JAPEM), both under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

“We saw a lot of contributions to COVID-19 frontliners, so we decided to focus on these volunteers and noticed there were sufficient food contributions but not so much on drinks with same expectations in Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital and the Tutong National Isolation Centre,” said Erna Hamidon, the employment agency’s general manager.

It started when several single mothers approached them and asked them if they could participate and provide supplies.

The company initially reached out to the community during the health crisis. However, looking back, Erna raised this matter to the company’s founder and thought of helping single mothers while contributing towards the cause.

Roze Rohaya Employment Agency General Manager Erna Hamidon. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

Erna started collecting data from the single mothers to know what products they can supply and deliver to the volunteers.

“Our main objective is to help ease the economic burden of single mothers in the country, especially when we are affected by the pandemic.”

As Erna and her team began their project, several more participated. Participants comprised single mothers and underprivileged families, including a married couple desperately trying to make ends meet for their children, with entrepreneurship being their only source of income.

“There was even another married couple who told us they have been applying for jobs, attending interviews, but nothing seems to work and having young children to support, they focussed on generating income by engaging in MSME activities.”

The available funds, contributed by company personnel including the founder and the accumulated contribution by clients registered under the agency, were used to buy homemade food and drinks made by selected single mothers, who were shortlisted through a phone interview.

The homemade products were distributed to volunteers as well as hospital personnel who have sacrificed in tackling the virus outbreak in the country. The contributions were also extended to the contractor workforce responsible for the construction of additional facilities for health centres.

The team said assistance for these groups would not stop during the virus outbreak and that they will continue the initiative as a long term project. The source of income will not only be from giving them an opportunity in MSME activities but also in helping them get a job.

With the collected data and focussing on what they can supply, Erna’s team began conducting interviews to collect details such as their monthly source of income, how many dependents they have, their living conditions and whether they are employed. Some individuals do receive assistance from authorities. However, engaging in small business activities is a way for them to earn extra income to cover other expenses, added Erna.

“We have our clients looking for someone to fill in vacancies at companies and this can be one way for us to help the underprivileged get a job. This is why we interview them. For those who want to continue their selling activities, we will try to find ways to assist them.”

Erna shared her gratitude to the CSR programme where they are able to instil spiritual values and said this is the time for solidarity to reach out while contributing. She also expressed gratitude to those involved during this difficult time.

The CSR initiative has ignited a strong fighting spirit within the company to continue the services assistance mission in the future.

Although a small community compared to other countries, Brunei Darussalam is no less fortunate to have private companies, non-government organisations and individuals reaching out to the community.