When we first met Samantha a month before Talent Spark, she was worried about having to manage a cooking workshop on her own and to interact with her participants. Taking a huge step out of her comfort zone, she shared her apprehension towards everything that could potentially go wrong.
Today, she was budding with confidence as she greeted me with a smile half of relief, half of pride at the successful completion of her workshop.
“I was really nervous. I was stuttering and mispronouncing my words, and even forgot to add seasoning to the dumplings!”
She laughed as she recounted what happened during the programme, before expressing her relief when the participants still enjoyed themselves.
A Love for Cooking
Samantha’s passion for cooking sparked after the birth of her daughter, Alyssa, several years ago. Before that, she had never cooked and never saw the need to do it, even more so because of her fear of knives. Yet, after learning that a child’s diet is critical for their growth, Samantha decided to wield the fearsome knife and began learning the essential cooking skills.
As a single working mother, Samantha takes pride in her ability to prepare simple but nutritious meals for herself and Alyssa. She would religiously look for recipes and experiment with them, finding ways to improve her cooking. It is thus no surprise that she chose cooking as the medium through which to connect with the participating youths.
Being a Single Mother
“It’s not about the title of being a ‘single mom’ that has changed my perspective of life. It’s about the experience of having a child, about being a mother.”
Alyssa’s birth turned Samantha’s life around. Although most mothers would agree that having children changed their lives, for her it was an extreme intervention that at first appeared too overwhelming for her to overcome.
But overcome she did.
Samantha abandoned her delinquent lifestyle and focused on supporting Alyssa on her own. She began thinking about the future, found a job, and was prepared to become a good role model for her child.
Rather than being identified by her struggles as a single mother, Samantha sees the embracing of motherhood as her most defining aspect. Of course, she would be the first to tell you all about the hardships that she had gone through, and even the times she almost gave up. Nevertheless, coming home to her daughter everyday reminds her that all her labour is worth it.
“When I looked at my Alyssa and held her in my arms, I knew that I would never let go of her.” Samantha fondly recalled the day her daughter was born—the day that changed her life.
A Safe Space for Conversations
Although she initially planned to make sushi for her workshop, Samantha realised that dumplings required more sophisticated steps and would facilitate more interaction between her and the participants. Despite the increase in difficulty and preparation, she was determined to make her engagement with the other youths a priority.
“I love listening to the stories of other people,” Samantha reflected. According to her, it is important that disadvantaged youths come together to share their struggles and to support each other. If nothing else, sometimes offering a listening ear is all a person needs.
“This programme provides a safe space for youths to talk to each other about their problems, and to be assured that they are not alone.”
Samantha told me about a time when she was pregnant with her daughter; terrified of the immense load of responsibilities that awaited her, she was thankful for the community of single mothers from Beautiful People who offered their unwavering support even until today. Inspired by their actions, she would often return as a volunteer to interact with her youths.
Because of her eagerness to give back to the community, Samantha willingly took on her mentoring role in Talent Spark despite her fears. In fact, she believes that such a programme could benefit the youths at risk in specific institutions like the Singapore Girls’ Home. As a previous resident there, Samantha feels that their shared experiences will form a bridge between herself and the youths. This way, she can listen to their stories and encourage them during their rehabilitation process.
“The smile on everyone’s faces!” Samantha beamed when asked about what her biggest takeaway from the programme was. Before today, she had hardly spoken to a crowd, much less conduct a cooking class.
Samantha had always found it difficult to talk to people. She was always afraid of being judged, being looked at, and even found it difficult to communicate with others. For that reason, today was as important to her as it was to her participants.
“I’d say my confidence level was at a low of 1 out of 10 a few weeks ago before the programme. But today, I’ll give myself about 4-5. I’m still afraid to talk to people, but it’s much better now.”
Samantha might have forgotten to season the dumplings, but she certainly spiced up everyone’s day with her bubbly and endearing personality.
Written by: Gabriel Woo
This project is powered by National Youth Council (NYC)