Sister Jess Lee beat over 100 contestants to win a 'Special Recognition Award' at the 26th Exemplary Mother Award given by the Jamiyah Singapore, a Muslim welfare organization. The overall winner was Madam Bibi Fatimah Sheikh Md who had four children.
In the award ceremony on 20 October 2018 at the Mandarin Hotel, Sister Lee received a trophy from Madam Halimah Yacob, the President of the Republic of Singapore. 'It was such a privilege to meet the President and have a chat with her. It was worth all the hardship that I have gone through,' Sister Lee said at the award ceremony.
Brought up five children as a single parent
Sister Jess Lee is a single mother who brought up five children on her own - three from her two failed marriages, and two girls (twins), belonging to her brother. Taking care of her own children and working on weekends was already a challenge for her. But when she found out that her brother's two daughters could end up in the streets in Thailand because their father was incarcerated, she knew she had to do something - she brought them to Singapore and cared for them as if they were her own.
13 years of trying to obtain Singapore Citizenship
Because her two nieces were born in Thailand, Sister Lee spent 13 years trying to obtain Singapore citizenship for them. During those 13 years, she sought help from every source she could think of, including her Member of Parliament, but without success. Her trips to the Immigration Department to get their passports stamped were too numerous to count. But she never gave up hope. When she got a 'NO' answer to their applications for Singapore Citizenship, she simple translated it as 'Next Opportunity'. Her eldest daughter, Samantha says her mother lives by the motto, 'Pain makes me stronger, tears make me braver, and heartbreak makes me wiser, so thank the past for a better future.'
Life is better now
With all the children all grown up, two are married with children of their own, Sister Lee continues to work to support the twins in their studies. She attends the Bedok Ward and does not work on Sundays anymore. She had only words of gratitude and thanksgiving when she was informed that she had won the Exemplary Mother Award. When she read the essay her daughter Samantha wrote in support of her nomination, she was deeply touched by what her children said about her going through the years of struggle and sacrifice. Her son Nelson told her, 'I don't need anyone to judge you as the Exemplary Mother, in my heart, you are the best mother.' Sister Lee, in summary, said it was all worth it – she would not ask for anything more than the family she now has – five children and two grandchildren.
About the Exemplary Mother Award
In 1993 the former President Wee Kim Wee presented Jamiyah Singapore with a Presidential Shield to honour exceptional mothers who have gone through challenges while raising their children and taking care of their families. Dr. (Adj) Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar, President of Jamiyah Singapore, said about the award, 'This distinguished award in honouring committed and deserving mothers allows these women to help their comrades in motherhood, as well as serve as role models and inspiration to them.' This year's Exemplary Award marks the 26th year of the annual event and the introduction of a special category 'The Exemplary Young Mother Award' showcasing young mothers' entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and determination.