SINGLE mother Rebecca Saliman is putting the trauma of a broken marriage behind her as she gathered her children – four sons and two daughters – for Gawai celebration at Rumah Michael Ancho in BawanAssan.
She was divorced seven years ago and was also a victim of domestic violence. The bitter memories still brought tears to her eyes as she talked to thesundaypost, but the woman of faith and courage is looking to the future with hope and love.
Just days before Gawai, Rebecca gathered her two youngest children – an 11-year-old son Eden Nayom, and a daughter, Faith Remiah, 10, – at her 37- door longhouse to let them try on their traditional costumes.
She also checked the traditional gongs to ensure the Gawai festival this year was one of the best for the family.
Rebecca is now over her marriage that didn’t work out – and her children, the longhouse folks and friends have been her pillars of support.
She said raising six children alone had been a struggle. Her estranged husband walked out without leaving anything for the family.
She has to take care of her young family single-handedly and is grateful her parents have been very supportive both fi nancially and morally.
Faith and courage
It was through her faith and courage that Rebecca, who works at the Sibu Education Department, has been made chairwoman of the Sarawak Single Mother Association, Sibu branch, which has recruited over 1,000 single mothers from Sibu, Selangau and Kanowit as members.
She believes all of them can turn their lives around, and for those who have lost the support of a breadwinner, she has faith they can take over the role of provider “because Malaysia is a society of care, kindness and love, and they will have the support they need.”
Rebecca said the government was caring and had granted the association funds to organise skills and vocational seminars.
According to her, the association has been holding sewing, tailoring and baking courses for members, and she hopes the government will do more to help single mothers help themselves.
“There are other areas that need government support such as counselling for our children when the head of the family is missing.”
She said for most single mothers, life was tough and the future looked bleak if they and their children could not cope.
She hoped the children of single mothers, particularly the uneducated ones, would be given free tuition to help them with their weak subjects.
As some of these mothers were already struggling to make ends meet, they might not have the time to help their children with their school work, she said, adding that it was even worse for those mothers with low education or none at all.
“I hope the government will help us organise more courses to teach single mothers to be independent.”
On the importance of counselling, Rebecca recalled her eldest son had problems coping when his father left. “He couldn’t focus on his studies, and the change in the family environment affected him psychologically. I knew he was aching inside.”
However, she is thankful none of her children has ended up victims of social ills. “They are okay and we are moving on together.”
Rebecca is volunteering her service to the Anti-dadah Agency where she is a committee member She said as a mother, she didn’t want other children to be led down the wrong path.
Her eldest son, Gregory Barnister, 26, has successfully completed a diploma course from a technical polyclinic in Kuching. Her eldest daughter, Sharon, now works at an audit fi rm here after graduating from Sunway College in Kuala Lumpur.
One of her twin sons is working at a specialist medical clinic here while the other is studying at the vocational school in Miri.
Her two youngest children – a boy and a girl – are still schooling.
Although the family is coping well presently, Rebecca said she couldn’t help feeling concerned about her children’s future. “We still need support to make us stronger.”
Her Gawai wish for single mothers: Spend wisely for the celebration. Save for a rainy day and share the warmth of the festival.
And to her children, she said: Stay healthy and happy. Face all diffi culties as one. We are moving on together.