Ms Yu Ling attends English classes by non-profit organisation ReadAble with her daughter Siqing.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF YU LING, READABLE
"It gives them a passport to something more in their lives. They can think a little further, beyond just being a wife and mother, beyond staying home and looking after their kids.”
When Ms Yu Ling, 42, moved to Singapore last year, English was a challenge.
She had learnt it as a student in China, but more than two decades of underuse had left her language skills rusty.
She struggled to make sense of her eight-year-old daughter Siqing's school textbooks or read letters that the school had addressed to parents.
So, when volunteers from non-profit organisation ReadAble enrolled her daughter into reading and language arts classes, Ms Yu decided that she, too, wanted to learn from the organisation's adults programme, called ReadAble Moms.
Since last year, the mother-daughter pair have been attending English lessons in their Jalan Kukoh neighbourhood. Located near Chinatown, the neighbourhood is made up of mostly rental flats.
While her daughter works on reading fluency and English comprehension, Ms Yu picks up functional English in one-to-one sessions tailored to the mothers' needs. Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, some of these classes have moved online.
Ms Chee Soo Lian, 55, an English teacher who specialises in teaching it as a second language, launched the ReadAble Moms programme in 2016 and has been overseeing it since.
About eight women are enrolled in the programme, mostly foreign women who have married Singaporean men.
Lessons are highly personalised as the mothers' requirements and learning abilities vary.
"Some want to understand letters and text messages from their children's teachers, while others need workplace language in offices, restaurants or hotels. Every week, apart from teaching the syllabus, we also find out the immediate language needs they have and address them," says Ms Chee.
Ms Yu, who is divorced, is now able to guide her daughter with school assignments.
"I help her with spelling and we read books and practise our English together," she says, adding that she hopes to find a job and continue to improve her English at work.
For Ms Chee, this is the best kind of payoff - watching the mothers dare to dream.
"It gives them a passport to something more in their lives. They can think a little further, beyond just being a wife and mother, beyond staying home and looking after their kids," she says.
About the series
This series is in collaboration with The Sunday Times to showcase people in Singapore who have come together to uplift the community in these trying times.