K SARASWATHY Dewi, 39, and her husband S. Vellu, 49, have 18 children and they are facing financial difficulties.
Of the 18, seven are their biological children while the rest are nieces and nephews they adopted when the children’s fathers died.
“Two of my younger brothers passed away in 2005 and 2007 respectively and they left behind 11 children. We adopted them legally about seven years ago,” said Saraswathy.
Thirteen of the children are girls and five are boys.
Vellu is a lorry driver while his wife was laid off two months ago as a cook at a private hospital after her nine years of service.
The family lives in a rented three-room single storey house in Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya.
The eldest child is a 20-year-old daughter who works as a nurse in a private hospital.
She is the only working child and helps to support the family.
Two other children just received their SPM results and are deciding on their future plans.
The rest of the children are still schooling, with the youngest being a one-year-old girl.
One of Saraswathy’s younger brothers, K. Chandran, was a contract worker and he died in 2005 while working at a construction site in Sungai Buloh.
He left behind five children between the ages of eight and 14.
His wife has since remarried and left the children under Saraswathy’s care.
In 2007, another younger brother of hers, K. Letchumanan, died in prison.
Letchumanan’s wife committed suicide in 2008 and they left behind six children between the ages of 12 and 18.
Since Saraswathy and her husband adopted the 11 children, they have been receiving a total monthly aid of RM450 from the Welfare Department.
The family is heavily in debt because of the legal fees they had to bear for Letchumanan’s legal matters.
“When Letchumanan died in prison, relatives and outsiders encouraged us to file a case and it was a legal tussle. We borrowed money from loan sharks for his case.
“Eventually, we lost the case and we are now RM40,000 in debt,” she said.
Saraswathy added that the family needed about RM4,000 for their monthly expenses which include rental, food and utilities.
Before she lost her job, the family was able to cope with the daily expenses because the three of them — husband, wife and eldest daughter — were making enough to get by.
“When I was working, our financial situation was bearable but now that I have been laid off, our situation is bad,” she said.
In the evenings, some of the teenagers would set up tables and sell fruits and drinks outside their rented house.
The house is located along the main road beside the Petaling Jaya Assumption Church.
None of the children are school dropouts and they have shown interest in their studies.
“We have 13 girls and five boys living under one roof. While my eldest daughter is a nurse, the rest are ambitious and want to be successful in the future,” she said.
The children do their homework on a donated dinner table which they use as a makeshift study table.
In the evenings, they would place the table at the veranda of the house and do their homework. Most of the schoolgoing children have their meals after they attend their tuition.
“We cook and eat simple meals at home. But on days when most of the children attend tuition, they have meals provided by church volunteers.
“However, we welcome rice and other food items that do not spoil easily,” she said.
Based on StarMetro’s visit, the house had broken furniture and little valuables.
The family has a donated small television and fridge.
They also have a satellite TV connection, which Saraswathy said was the only form of entertainment for the entire family of 20. The rooms were filled with stacks of mattresses but there were few beds.
They had broken cupboards without doors and their sofa had no cushions.
Their kitchen had a broken cabinet and a simple stove.
The family hand washes their laundry and have no washing machine.
Their outstanding bills consist of three months’ house rent plus water and electricity bills amounting to RM3,000, RM300 and RM83.69 respectively.
The family hopes for some form of assistance from the public but has no intention of putting any of the children up for adoption.
Saraswathy said she would like to set up her own food business but has no funds or idea on how to start.
She had also applied to the Welfare Department to convert her rented home into a shelter for children.
“I have applied for a licence to set up a shelter home. However, I need more guidance and approval from the authorities to realise the idea,” she said.
Those who wish to help the family can call Saraswathy at 016-909 0503 or visit the family at 78, Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya.