Ali Wilkinson

Paying it Forward


This is Sriyani (with a tired and jet lagged toddler Golden Child). She was our amah during our time in Singapore and lived with us in her own rooms off  the kitchen and did the housework and some cooking, but most importantly she looked after the Golden Child.

Last week I posted about how I got into quilting whilst living in Singapore, and I guess this is a spin-off story from that.

Sriyani was really fascinated by my quilting and the fabrics. She was originally from Sri Lanka and had some beautiful saris she wore on Sundays when she went to church. Looking after Golden Child left her quite a bit of “downtime” as the Golden Child was a very good sleeper! So I enrolled her in sewing classes at the same quilting shop I went to, which I think was a bit of a culture shock for some of the more traditional local shoppers as usually service staff stayed home and kept out of sight, a little like Carson off Downton Abbey would have happen! Luckily Ira, the shop owner, was very supportive of my desire to teach Sriyani a new skill, and welcomed her to the classes with open arms.

Sriyani showed great skill and we bought her a basic machine and fabric. She was prolific! When we left Singapore she went to work for a Dutch family and they made good use of her sewing skills making things for their three children!

We kept in touch with Sriyani and a few years later she moved back to Sri Lanka. She had spent 25 years in Singapore looking after other people’s children and houses. All that time her husband and mother had looked after her own son in Sri Lanka, and she had been saving and judiciously purchasing commercial property and land in Negombo. When she returned she took some sewing machines with her and set up a small business where she taught other women how to sew and created patchwork quilts for sale. She began to offer quilting services and established a link with a quilting store in an upmarket part of a SE Asian city (details not shared for privacy reasons).

I am sad to say we have lost touch in the last decade but there is a soft spot in my heart for Sriyani and the care and devotion she showed to the Golden Child, and I also have immense pride for her achievements. One day soon I will go to Negombo and I will find her again. Perhaps by now she has even more business interests!

One thought on “Paying it Forward

  1. It really is a case here that great oaks from little acorns grow . All because you bucked the trend in taking her to sewing class it opened a whole load of new opportunities . Fantastic

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