The milk of human kindness
Mother touched by assistance offered by Facebook group which helps needy families with children
Written on six-month-old Putra Rezki Herman's clinical summary is the primary diagnosis - "Failure to thrive".
These words barely begin to describe the suffering Rezki and his family are going through.
Born with congenital left diaphragmatic hernia, a defect of the diaphragm, Rezki also suffers from many other unrelated conditions, including delayed development, an allergy to cow's milk and severe eczema.
He needs to be tube-fed with Neocate LCP powder, a special type of infant formula powder that costs $107 per 400g tin.
Each tin lasts him for only two days and this adds up to $1,605 spent on milk formula alone in a month.
Despite spending half of the baby bonus received at Rezki's birth and utilising subsidies from Medisave and Medifund, his family has been left with financial difficulties.
His father Herman Suratman is the sole breadwinner of the family, working as a warehouse driver, while his wife, Madam Suriyana Asmoni, takes care of Rezki and her mother-in-law.
Madam Suriyana decided to comment on a post on high milk prices in the Facebook group Ian Free Milk Blessing, revealing her plight there in the hope of receiving aid.
The founder of the group, who requested anonymity, received her request for help at 1.36am, and showed up with aid in the form of money for three tins of milk and skin care lotion less than an hour later.
Madam Suriyana said: "I was so surprised... (I cried) tears of joy and could not speak. All I could say was a big thank you."
A campaign to raise funds to pay for Rezki's milk and diapers is up on crowdfunding site GIVE.asia. At press time, it had raised about $2,500.
Ian Free Milk Blessings was founded earlier this year to help needy families with children who were unable to get sufficient milk and food.
Such situations often come about when applications for social service aid are being processed, and little interim help for the families is provided, or a parent has ended up in jail. The situation is further worsened by the high cost of milk formula.
This comes amid concerns raised by several Members of Parliament on the rising cost of infant milk formula in Parliament yesterday.
The Singapore Department of Statistics reported an increase in the price of a 900g tin of infant milk powder by 120 per cent over the last decade, from 2007 to 2016.
The Ian Free Milk Blessings group is made up of the founder, three partners and 26 volunteers. In just the last six weeks, it distributed 1,400 tins of infant milk formula.
The group has also organised multiple milk drives with other organisations like the Eunos Milk Powder Distribution drive, held in collaboration with Eunos Grassroots Organisations.
One of the many parents that they have helped is Madam Low, a mother in her late 20s.
Madam Low said: "I felt really happy that someone was helping. I was really in need of milk powder. They sent milk over within two hours of me asking for help."
Madam Low also received emotional support from the team's members, and is now a volunteer with the group.
One of the partners, Mr Lester Lee, an insurance agent in his early 50s, told TNP: "I decided to join this (aid team) because I think it's really meaningful. We're helping the less fortunate, especially the kids."
The founder set up the group after being in desperate need of milk powder. Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee and Mr Chua Eng Leong, adviser to Aljunied GRC Grassroots Organisations, provided tins of milk for the founder's four children.
The founder had promised to repay the favour and give back to the community after recovering from the situation.
"I run this forum not for (personal) credit. Kindness begets kindness, and this is a way (for me) to return to society," the founder said.
The group has more than 2,100 members, and families in need can post about their plight on its Facebook page.