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Dignity Kitchen helps woman get back on her feet

ACCOMMODATING: The flexible hours at Dignity Kitchen allows single parents Sharifah Mohd and Johar Mohd Ali to juggle working and taking care of their children. TNP PHOTO: KIAT TAN

Divorcee Sharifah Mohd had many worries.

Would she be able to put food on the table? Could she look after her six sons, aged from seven to 21, on her own?

Home for Ms Sharifah and her children was a rental flat.

Her 16-year marriage ended in 2008 and her ex-husband now has a new family.

In search of a job with flexible hours, the former kindergarten teacher became a hawker, manning Malay food stalls at various locations in Ang Mo Kio and Tiong Bahru with a friend.

She said: "I tried to find a job where the timing would fit my family's schedule. I wanted to be there when they came home, but most places offered only fixed working hours."

Monthly income for the 43-year-old at those places was "a few hundred dollars", so she searched for jobs at hawker centres with higher traffic, but to no avail.

Help groups referred her to Dignity Kitchen's founder Koh Seng Choon, 55, in late 2012.

A two-month stint at the hawker training school for the disabled and disadvantaged followed.

Since April, Ms Sharifah has been tending the Malay food stall at Dignity Kitchen foodcourt in Serangoon Central six days a week, from 8am to 4pm. She manages the stall with Madam Rahimah Abdul Rahim, 55, and Mr Johar Mohd Ali, 50.

UPGRADE

The $1,300 monthly pay has helped Ms Sharifah and her sons move to a three-room flat in Yishun last month. More importantly, "this job lets me have dinner with my boys every day", she said.

But there's another worry - slow walk-in business.

"Some people think Dignity Kitchen is a training school, so they avoid the place," she said.

"I hope more people will visit the foodcourt and try our food. It pains my heart to see what we prepared go to waste."