“Both my parents were educators, and when I was about 12, I would always follow them during their visits to children’s homes. I think that experience definitely shaped my decision to teach kids as a career when I got older.

I grew even more serious about working with kids – especially kids from vulnerable families after I went to Chennai. I was pursuing a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and wanted to know what preschools in other cities were like, so I visited this international school during my school break.

What struck me the most in Chennai was the sight of this group of kids just outside the school gate. There were about 25 or 30 of them under this busy expressway, and all of them were holding on to notebooks even though they didn’t have any access to proper education.

That image stayed with me, and it spurred me to give vulnerable kids an equal start in life. That’s why I became a facilitator at kidSTART; it’s a community playgroup by the Early Childhood Development Agency that works closely with Tasek Jurong to ensure kids in our community go to school.

As a facilitator, my job is to lay a solid foundation for the kids before they go to school. Through language and play, I hope to develop their social and motor skills. I’m also their first contact with a teacher, so I try my best to create a positive experience for them.

After I came back from Chennai, I actually suggested the idea of fostering to my parents. There was a lot of apprehension at first, naturally. My brother and I are all grown up now, so the idea of taking care of children again was tough for them.

As the months went by, however, they warmed up to the idea and eventually agreed to do it. It helped that my mom has already retired from teaching, and as I had planned to do this as a family, it’s easier now that I’m done with school and properly settled down at work.

In the past two years, we’ve already fostered four kids. To build relationships with them and see how much they’ve progressed since they first came to us has really been one of our greatest joys. Our hands are full, yes, but our hearts are fuller.” – Tashka

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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.