All too often, our role models are people we don’t actually know: celebrities, athletes, business tycoons, or even motivational speakers. A little distance can go a long way in hiding flaws and accentuating the positive in our heroes.
Sahri Jumaat didn’t have to look that far. His role model is his father — the neighborhood block cleaner in Yishun.
Photos of the 31-year-old and his father, Jumaat bin Soori, have been shared more than 200 times since they were posted on Facebook yesterday.
The photos, which were taken last week, show Sahri helping his 68-year-old father pick up discarded items near void decks and wheel the rubbish bin around.
“A perfect role model for me is my dad,” he wrote in the post. “My dad is a father who supports the children even when he has no money.”
“He will do whatever it takes as long as his responsibilities (are) done … The way he overcomes (his challenges) has taught me that no matter how hard things are, you have to keep going,” he added.
His father has been a cleaner for nearly 20 years and has been juggling with his other job as a housekeeper at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital ever since the institution opened in 2010, Sahri told Coconuts Singapore over the phone this afternoon.
And those kids he’s supporting? There’s 13 of them from two separate marriages. As the sole breadwinner for all of them, taking a second job to make ends meet was a necessity, according to Sahri.
“The children want him to rest and his management (has) advised him to take leave, but he (doesn’t) want,” Sahri said.
His father works at the hospital at night, then goes on to clean the Yishun neighborhood after his shift ends at about 7am, according to Sahri, adding that his father would have a coffee break in between.
About three times a week, Sahri joins his father in helping to clean up Yishun, where both of them also live.
He said: “Whenever I am free, I (will) wait for him. If there (is) quite a lot of stuff to clear, I will help.”
Sahri also revealed that it used to be his younger brother who would accompany his father. But he was recently imprisoned, Sahri said, declining to share the details of the case.
“My younger brother would always drop by and help my dad. He misses my younger brother because he was just recently sent to prison.”
Sahri, who freely admits he once was a “delinquent,” currently works as a mentor for former convicts.
Looking back on his father’s sacrifices for the family, Sahri said it’s almost unfathomable how much he’s given.
“How he manages it, how he kept his love for his children, it’s so priceless.”
More news from the Little Red Dot at Coconuts.co/Singapore.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story referenced Jumaat bin Soori’s son in saying his father had worked as a cleaner at the site for “more than 20 years.” The Nee Soon Town Council has identified the length of his employment as 18 years.
This article, ‘Role model’ cleaner in Yishun juggles two jobs, raised 13 children, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!