Saraswathy Periyasamy, 42 years old is a super hard working B40 mother who works day and night to ensure that her four children are fed and have a decent upbringing. She lives in one of the Project Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) low-cost flats in downtown Kuala Lumpur. With Women of Will’s (WOW) support, her life has improved with a much promising future for her and her children.
True to a report published by UNICEF recently, Saraswathy represents the 36% category of female-led households that are self-employed and struggling to survive during this pandemic. As the sole breadwinner of her family, she is a mother and homemaker by day and a baker and entrepreneur by night.
Hobby Turned Income
“I love to bake and make treats for my children to bring to school. They will share it with their friends and their friends will be so happy,” Saraswathy said. What began as a mother’s hobby slowly evolved into a homegrown business thanks to a flux of positive feedback and demand from everyone that tasted her delicacies.
She received requests to do some catering for events, birthday parties and small gatherings. Her baked goods were always a hit and soon it became her main source of income.
Solely reliant on word-of-mouth promotions and orders from friends and family, Saraswathy demand started to decline due to lockdown restrictions in March. Her income almost depleted.
Short of a miracle, Women of Will (WOW), an NGO that is actively seeking to help B40 communities got touch with her. This was not the first time Saraswathy met WOW, in fact, it was WOW that gave her the tools, training and mentorship needed to start her own homegrown baking business.
“I am so grateful to WOW because they gave me a chance and opportunity to open my own business. I attended classes and received a lot of support from them,” Saraswathy shared.
During the pandemic, it was WOW that taught her how to move her business online, to set up social media accounts and promote her business digitally. “Before this, I only sold cakes to people I know. Now I sell to people I don’t even know!,” Saraswathy explained with great delight.
“During the pandemic, WOW did not forget about us. They came to give us groceries, facemasks, gloves, sanitisers and kept encouraging us,” she added. In tough times, these acts of kindness are a ray of hope.
All Eyes On One Device
With four children, ages ranging from 4 to 15 years old, Saraswathy’s children take turns to use her mobile phone to access class, homework and assignments online. Once the children are done, she then reclaims the phone to reply clients, orders and manage her business.
There is a lot of give and take in her home. When class timings clash, the children will have to divide up the amount of time they take to attend. One will attend a class for 10 minutes before passing it to their other sibling. Luckily, all learning material and homework is given through WhatsApp, so the children can study in their own time.
With schools closed, Saraswathy also has to play the role of a teacher.
I have to help them with their school work and every week, I was about three kilometres to the nearest printing shop to print out all their school work. Taking Grab is too expensive and I don’t have a vehicle.
Saraswathy did not sound displeased about the situation. In fact, she is grateful that her children can continue studying.
“I know my children appreciate me, especially when they say I love you,” Saraswathy’s perspective on life and hardship is truly admirable. There is a clear bond between mom and children. Her eldest daughter helps her promote the business and her other children help with house chores and taking care of each other when Saraswathy is busy in the kitchen baking.
What Keeps Her Going?
Saraswathy is very grateful to WOW, for the help and intervention to give her family a new lease of life. Despite the challenging situation of being the sole breadwinner and only adult in her family, she remains focused on ensuring that her children will not be faced with the same troubles. Her priorities lie in their education and commits herself to preparing for their future.
Her optimism is infectious and inspiring and needless to say, she is the role model her children need for brighter days ahead.
If you want to change your life, you have to do something about it. You have to step out and look for it. In Malaysia, there are countless opportunities to be taken. You just have to find it.
Find Saraswathy on Instagram at Claires Cake House. Follow her as there will be more updates in the future. Support her business and show some love. And if you’re moved by the efforts of Women of Will, get in touch with them and find out how you can be part of shaping someone else’s future.
Explore our sources
- UNICEF, UNFPA, & DM Analytics. (October 2020). Families on the Edge (Issue 2): Status of the households post-MCO. Link.