From zero to hero. That is how Azura, 35, a mother of two, describes her journey with YWCA’s Weaving Programme. Like many others in the programme, she started from humble beginnings, with zero knowledge of the craft and unsure of what to expect. It was something she had never imagined herself doing till circumstances led her to an opportunity to try it out. Now an expert in the craft, and with hard work and dedication, she has recently been appointed Studio Supervisor at YWCA.
A few years ago, bogged down by health issues and family commitments, Azura found herself having difficulties holding her full-time job as an administrative executive. Her Thalassemia condition causes her to be anaemic, often feeling faint at work and requiring regular blood transfusions at the hospital. In addition, her older son, now 10, not only suffers from the same genetic blood disease, but he also has Global Developmental Delay (GDD) and requires regular therapy at KK Hospital.
Without flexible work arrangements to attend to family needs and faced with a pressing need to care for her health, Azura had little choice but to leave her full-time employment. As her husband became the sole breadwinner, the hefty bills from medical treatments and therapy sessions quickly chipped away at their savings and became too much to bear. Without a means to an end, the family of four had to rely on social support to get by.
Determined to better her situation, Azura sought help from her social worker at THK Macpherson Family Service Centre (THK FSC) in February 2021 in search of flexible employment opportunities that could accommodate her constraints.
Still fresh from her memory, she recounts the time when she was with her son at Popular bookstore, and he asked if he could have the Spiderman pencil case. It cost $9.90 and was too much for her to afford. Not wanting to disappoint her son, Azura made a promise to him that she would buy it for him when she receives her first paycheck. It was on that very day she received a call from her social worker, who shared with her about the YWCA Weaving Programme. Azura describes the moment as a divine appointment, and she knew she had to seize that opportunity.
For Azura, weaving quickly became an accidental love affair. It was enjoyable and therapeutic, and she loved experimenting with a variety of colours and textures to create beautiful designs and products. Her enthusiasm for the craft stood out above all else, and her tenacity paid off as she quickly rose to the rank of Studio Supervisor.
“If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Don’t give up and just keep trying.”- Azura
As a studio supervisor with the YWCA Weaving Programme, her role requires her to prepare and facilitate workshops, train new beneficiary mums in the craft, and take inventories. These days, she even ventures into product development, creating new and unique products with her woven designs.
Aside from scarves and table runners, she has made coasters, bags, floor mats, and even a dress. Her goal? A curtain, she ambitiously declares.
A variety of products made by Azura
Undeterred by her circumstances, every workshop facilitated by Azura is filled with joy and positivity – it is almost impossible to tell the kind of hardships she has gone through. On days when some participants face difficulties and feel like throwing in the towel, she showers them with words of encouragement and patiently coaches them through the process.
She even goes the extra mile too. When a participant in a wheelchair has difficulties reaching the bobbin, she thoughtfully steps in to assist and attentively watches on.
Her efforts have certainly not gone unnoticed. Zalina, a new participant, says, “I really enjoyed today’s session. Azura was very patient and engaging. She made the lesson easy to pick up. I would like to continue these weaving sessions and learn from scratch.”
When asked how she copes with challenges at work, Azura shares that her children and her happy students are her primary sources of motivation.
“Even though there may be hiccups along the way, the positive feedback from participants makes me want to contribute more to the organisation,” she said. “When my participants enjoy the workshops, they spread the good word to the people around them.”
Azura’s life has turned around since coming on board the YWCA Weaving Programme. The role provides her with a decent income and gives her the flexibility she needs. “I am now on the Home Ownership Scheme,” she beams with excitement.
Indeed, she has come a long way. From living in a 2-room rental flat to collecting the keys to her new Built-To-Order HDB flat, Azura can now afford the simple things in life that she never could in the past. Being part of the YWCA Weaving Programme has made that possible and is an opportunity that she cherishes to this very day.
Her personal mantra? “If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Don’t give up and just keep trying.”
The YWCA Weaving Programme
Like Azura, our beneficiary mothers in the weaving programme often find difficulties in committing to a full-time role because of their circumstances.
An extension of the YWCA Empowering Mums programme, the YWCA Weaving Programme aims to fill this gap by supporting mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds with a source of flexible income that could meet their needs.
In this programme, women are first trained in the unique art of freeform weaving, which they will impart to others as they conduct workshops. The training is fully sponsored by our partner, UPS, and the mums receive a salary for each training session and workshop they attend.
The workshops are open to the public, to individuals and corporations alike, and all the proceeds go back into the programme directly.
If you would like to support the programme and learn more about this unique craft, click here to join our weaving workshops. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiries and corporate partnerships or call 6223 1227.