Crowdfunding raises $1.1m for operation
LAST November, a young girl showed up at Jamie Chua's flat to offer her piggy bank. The girl, who was accompanied by her mother, said she believed Madam Chua and her family needed it more than her.
Such surprise visits and unexpected acts of kindness have become a frequent occurrence for Madam Chua, 30, and her husband, Xie Wen Long, 40.
Seven months ago, the couple started two online crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for their daughter's medical bill.
Yujia, who is two years old, was born with oesophageal atresia, a rare birth defect in which a baby is born without part of the oesophagus, leaving a gap between it and the stomach. As a result, she cannot eat through her mouth.
The couple set out to raise $2 million - the estimated sum needed to take Yujia to Boston Children's Hospital in the United States for an operation. They picked the hospital based on their research into their daughter's illness.
The amount raised so far is close to $1.1 million, which amazes the couple whose decision to crowdfund drew flak.
One of their uncles was so taken aback by their crowdfunding campaigns that his negative reaction resulted in some unhappiness within the family.
"He thought we were crazy as the amount we needed to raise was really high," said Madam Chua. "My mum, being very sensitive, was rather angry with him."
There are ups and downs for the family. They celebrate Yujia's little achievements: progress with her psychomotor skills when she claps along to her singing or when she manages to sit up correctly.
On bad days, Yujia yanks at her own hair, repeatedly gags on her own saliva or has to be rushed to the hospital.
With more than half the medical fee raised, Madam Chua finally has reason to think about the trip and the additional headaches that will come with it, such as money for the air tickets and their six-month stay in Boston.
"Frankly, we didn't think that far ahead then because the amount we are trying to raise is a lot," she said.
Mr Xie, a freelance event organiser, said: "We also don't want people to think that we only know how to ask for donations."
If possible, the family want to take care of their own expenses because they already feel indebted to strangers who have given money as well as necessities such as diapers, catheters and an air purifier.
With about $900,000 more to raise, Madam Chua is pondering making soap or souvenirs to sell.
However, people have advised her to spend the time looking after her daughter.
Mr Xie, who used to have a full-time job until his constant need to take time off work displeased his former employer, is now the sole breadwinner.
Despite the difficulties, the couple are determined to find the money for the operation.
"A lot of people have asked if I would give up," said Madam Chua. "Of course, the answer is always a firm 'no'."
THE NEW PAPER