Seethalakshmi Subbaraman

Everyone faces challenges in their own lives and Mrs. Seetha had her fair share of them. She was born in Singapore in 1939 and got married to a Singaporean soon after. Happiness in her marriage however was short-lived as she lost her husband at an early age. It was indeed a struggle to fend for herself as well as for her two young boys. However, unlike most, she was not preoccupied with her own problems. She remained strong with the moral support of her family. She managed her problems well and made sure she set aside time to give back to the community whenever she could.

The habit of giving back to society was a seed that was sowed in her at a very tender age by her parents and that seed has blossomed into a tree today with a major part of her life being dedicated to helping others. When Mrs. Seetha was young, unlike most children her birthdays were not spent excitedly expecting gifts from loved ones but were days that she was taught how to share what she had with those who needed it more than her and the spirit of volunteerism started from there.

“My father changed into 20-cent coins the money meant for our birthday presents and made us give to each boy in the home.”

After working as a primary school teacher for several years, Mrs. Seetha decided to retire. To keep herself occupied during retirement, she dedicated herself to doing voluntary work. A significant milestone in her voluntary work was being the principal of the first Indian kindergarten in Singapore for the Indian community, Saraswathi kindergarten. Starting the school and setting a structured education system within the kindergarten was not an easy task.

“These are the things that make it worthwhile to be in the teaching profession.”

Mrs. Seetha had an innate ability to engage with kids and also enjoyed doing so very much. Thus, despite holding down a job and having to care for two boys, she agreed to set aside time to give tuition to the Ramakirshna Mission boys when she was requested by the swamiji. She not only taught them but also motivated them to do better in their lives. She delightedly continued this volunteering activity for another twenty years. Witnessing boys whom she guided and taught do well in life makes her feel good about herself and makes her realise that her voluntary efforts have had a significant impact on the lives of others. She also feels very proud of the children whom she had a hand in shaping their future.

“It was a great struggle to teach him the language and make him do well in life.”

Mrs. Seetha not only volunteered to teach at Saraswathi kindergarten and RamaKrishna Mission but she also extended a helping hand to various other people and places. When Saradha kindergarten started, she used to help kids there who had learning needs to cope with their studies, she actively took part in the kids read program organized by national library board, was an active mentor for students in Marsiling primary school under the mentorship program, taught children at the night classes at SINDA, and even helped out with organising activities at the Ramakrishna Mission along with her friends. She is a member of RSVP, which is an organisation for people above 50 yrs old who are trained as volunteers and sent out to work with children, other elderly or organisations like IMH.

These extensive volunteering activities have earned her many awards and accolades. For instance, Mrs. Seetha was the first person to receive the excellence award presented by the Hindu Endowment Board for her contributions to the Indian community. She also received the gold and platinum certificates for dedicating more than forty hours to the kids read program. These are just some of the accolades that Mrs Seetha has gotten and from her track record, there are many more coming her way.

“I was afraid that I would not be able to go out and manage my finances. So I had to resort to internet banking.”

Mrs. Seetha attributes the love she has for children as the driving force that fuelled her to contribute as much as she can to help children excel academically. She feels that women especially those who are professionally trained, educated and have the time and resources, should not only confine themselves to their home but should extend their help to the community as well.

Speaking to Mrs Seetha, we at 50Faces are reminded of the quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr - "The happiest people are not those who are getting more but those who are giving more".

A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.