Under our "Inspiring People" column, we highlight the incredible journey of one person who has overcome tremendous odds to achieve personal success. This column celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and we hope it will inspire you to reach for your dreams, too. This month, we bring you a girl who loves her parents and chases her dreams, despite the odds.
Jasila Badardin was a toddler when she witnessed for the first time her mother being struck by an epileptic fit.
They were outside together, crossing the road and on the way to school when her mother collapsed.
“She was having fits, and was very weak,” she told Yahoo! Singapore in an interview at the Balestier flat she now stays in with her parents. “Passersby called the ambulance... I didn’t know what to do, she fainted and I was shocked,” she added.
Jasila, who works as a healthcare assistant, turns 26 this year, and started singlehandedly taking care of her mother ever since she was eight years old, after her father, then the family’s sole breadwinner, taught her how.
Where she previously would call her grandmother, who lived in a nearby apartment block, and aunt in a tizzy, eight-year-old Jasila learnt to keep sharp objects away from her mother whenever attacks occurred, and direct her to get rest.
Both parents fall ill
Her father struggled to support their small family unit when Jasila’s mother’s condition worsened, and she had to be hospitalised for treatment over extended periods. He himself struggled with diabetes since Jasila was younger, and was unable to attend his check-ups on a regular-enough basis because of his long shifts as a hotel security guard.
Because of this, his diabetes spread to his left leg, also causing sores on his neck, shoulders and back and swelling in various parts of his body. But he avoided visiting the doctor out of fear of being injected wrongly because medical staff faced difficulty locating his veins for intravenous drips. At one point, he had to be hospitalised for a month when the diabetic infection he was having spread to his hand.
By the time Jasila turned 17, her father’s leg had gotten so heavy and swollen that he was no longer able to walk or work after being hospitalised for three months. Huge medical expenses and the lack of any income for Jasila’s family convinced her of the need to assume her father’s responsibility fully as the family’s breadwinner.
It was also that year that Jasila first went to her constituency’s Member of Parliament (MP) for help.
While struggling with his diabetes, her father was unable to pay for her school fees, so she sought a bursary to assist with that. She failed her ‘N’ levels, though, and was due to enrol in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) but had to postpone her studies indefinitely to work part-time, waitressing both at Pizza Hut and at the Grand Hyatt.
‘I wasn’t sure when I would be able to start school’
Financial difficulties in her family continued to worsen when she was 19 years old. Her father had no choice but to sell their flat in Bukit Panjang, and she realised she was not sure when she would be able to start schooling again.
Shortly before her family sold their home, Jasila’s uncle came to stay with them because her cousin refused to look after him, so apart from looking after three dependents, two of whom were ill, Jasila found herself embroiled in a fruitless struggle with the Housing Development Board (HDB) to buy another house.
Despite her MP trying on her behalf as well, her application to buy another flat was rejected because her income was too low, and her family was forced to rent instead.
“I was stressed (at this point), (and I had) no appetite, trying to think what to do for my parents, this and that,” she said, adding that over and above everything that was already happening, her mother suffered a mild stroke and was hospitalised for almost three months.
The flat they rented under an occupant-sharing scheme turned out to be two months of housemate hell — the man whom they stayed with would often drink and try to make moves on Jasila.
The lowest point: separation
After that arrangement failed, Jasila went to the Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) for assistance. They put her parents and uncle in Angsana Home for two weeks before transferring her parents to an old-age home — her uncle was held there because he had a criminal record — and Jasila was told to stay at her aunt’s house.
The 10 months her parents spent in Bukit Batok Home for the Aged, she shares, became what was probably the lowest point in her life.
“I was stressed, and very depressed,” she said. “I wanted to look after them, and didn’t want them to be in old age homes.”
Jasila faced all this alongside the growing-up struggle between discerning what she wanted to do and trying to earn enough money to help her parents defray their medical bills. She switched between a range of jobs that included work at drug and convenience stores, and at one point even took up an accounting course in the hopes of upgrading herself to a better-paying job.
“I couldn’t concentrate (on accounting), though — I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do, and my mindset was negative the whole time,” she said. “I was asking myself why I keep changing (jobs) here and there, and what it is I actually am supposed to do.”
She shared that she also often lost patience at work, losing her temper whenever she was treated unjustly or if she felt like she was taken advantage of.
Finding her passion in life
It was somewhere during this period of her life, watching her parents’ respective medical conditions worsen over the years, that she realised what she really wanted to go into — nursing.
She said her interest in it was ignited when she was 15 and watched how healthcare staff looked after both her parents in hospital.
“When I was 16, I started to realise this is what I liked, and what I should go for... I like that I can do it for life, and I want to spend my whole life doing it; I want to help people the way they have helped my parents,” she added, but was unable to pursue courses in nursing as her grades did not permit her to.
Repeated attempts to apply for a job with various hospitals came to no avail either, until finally she was hired as a healthcare assistant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
After paying off $500 in penalty for breaking a six-month bond as a condominium security guard, where she had been working for three months, Jasila went for a nursing course under the Health Management International school, where she studied for two months and went on attachment for three.
Because her first two months of course did not provision for any allowance, though, Jasila worked 12-hour shifts over her weekends to get by.
“Sometimes I would fall sick, but I knew that I had to concentrate (on doing this) because this is what I want, what I desire,” she said.
As if all the challenges Jasila faced weren’t already enough, her nursing course had to be put on hold when she developed an ovarian cyst that required surgical removal. Complications arose again four years later, and her resulting operation last year left her hospitalised for a full month.
“At first I was asking God (about everything that had happened), why me? But I realised... good or bad, no matter how bad, they are my parents. They gave me my education, and without them I won’t be here, I won’t be born,” she said.
Even though there were numerous occasions where she felt very negatively about her situation, she simply said, “Never mind, don’t give up — maybe I still can try, there’s always a way.”
Things started looking up for her, however — as her nursing course came to an end she heard good news from her then-MP Indranee Rajah: her family had obtained approval from HDB to buy a flat.
She now lives with her parents in a three-room flat in Whampoa, and is slowly refurnishing their home. At the same time, she still hopes to finish her studies and become an assistant nurse.
“If God gives me a way, I definitely will go for it and upgrade myself,” she says with bright eyes. “Step by step — it’s a long way, but it’s okay.”
The family of a US scientist found hanged last year in Singapore walked out of a coroner's inquiry into his death Tuesday, saying they had "lost faith" in the proceedings.