Daughters of Tomorrow


A simple concrete box the size of a kitchen sink sits by the entrance of a two-storey building.

Each day, staff at Aarti Home, a girls’ home in Kadapa, India, would check the box the moment they turn up for work – to look for abandoned babies.

They were considered the lucky ones, as Singaporean Carrie Tan, who was volunteering at the home, would soon find out.

“I saw the bodies of baby girls dumped in wells behind clinics. I saw women who had lost all hope in building lives for themselves,” recalled the 31-year-old.

“It shocked me to the core to see mothers driven to such desperation and hopelessness.”

That two-week volunteer trip in 2007 turned out to be a life-changing experience for Ms Tan. She came up with the idea of starting Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), a social enterprise aimed at empowering women by teaching them basic business literacy and craft skills.

DOT was up and running in 2011. Last year, Ms Tan quit her job as a headhunter and gave up her salary of more than $8,000 a month to work on the social enterprise full time.

Ms Tan, who has been living off her savings for the past year, now has a core group of about six regular volunteers and a network of ad-hoc ones. They conduct workshops at Aarti Home, with the help of non-governmental organisation Lalitha Women’s Cooperative. So far, they have taught almost 20 women in kadapa – a six-hour train ride from Hyderabab – how to make clothes and accessories for sale.

In April, Ms Tan brought her initiative closer to home. She began to reach out to women here who need help, through family service centres and social workers.

Said Ms Tan, who started to take part in social service conferences here last year: “I found out there were families in Singapore getting by on less than $1,000 a month even though they have five children. It inspired me to work with our local women, some who are also fighting their own battles living hand to mouth.”

So far, DOT has trained 12 women her in craft skills and basic business skills like resource management, so they can make a modest living for themselves.

These women now bring in a supplementary income of about $200 to $500 a month by taking on small handicraft projects like sewing and candle-making.

DOT also helps them look for supporters who can sponsor equipment like sewing machines.

One of DOT’s beneficiaries, Ms Isabelle Neo, 41, hopes to put her skills to work and bring in extra income after attending candle-making classes run by the group.

Housewife Zaiton Mohd Salleh, 36, also got help from DOT. She earns $200 a month from small craft projects making candles and pillows. She can buy more groceries for her five children aged between eight and 18.

Her husband, who works in a plant nursery, earns about $1,000 a month.

Madam Zaiton said: “I’m more confident in myself now. It feels like I’m useful, and I’m helping my family achieve a better life.”


Edited from source, The Straits Times, 13 December 2013




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