BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – As roads and shopping complexes see droves of people scrambling to complete their Hari Raya shopping, not everyone in the Brunei can afford the same privilege.

While many people are handing over their cash for stylish Hari Raya decorations or open house catering, Hjh Marsita Hj Mustapa is just grateful she can afford a pair of new clothes for her two sons with disabilities.

Rafi, 18, and Raffae, 8, are just two among the 19,913 people that will receive the kurnia peribadi or personal gifts from His Majesty the Sultan this year, which were distributed in all four districts by the monarch’s children on Wednesday and Thursday.

HRH the Crown Prince presenting the ‘kurnia peribadi’ to recipients at Istana Nurul Iman on May 29, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

The annual endowment, in the form of financial assistance, is given out to individuals registered with the government as requiring special assistance, such as orphans, the less fortunate and those with special needs

Raffae is a paraplegic who lost function of both his legs after suffering from a fever when he was just eight months old. Hjh Marsita’s elder son, Rafi, has a learning disability.

“At eight months old, doctors told us at by that point he should have developed some fine motor skills like crawling, but Raffae never managed to do those sort of things.

“This is the fourth year that we have received the kurnia peribadi from His Majesty, and we are truly grateful for it. I don’t think we would be able to support the needs of our two sons without it,” says the 45-year-old housewife.

With her husband currently unemployed, only working freelance gigs as a driver to support the family, Hjh Marsita said the financial burden of looking after her two sons can sometimes be overwhelming without the aid of the monthly government welfare benefits.

Hjh Marsita Hj Mustapa with her children Rafi and Raffae after receiving the ‘kurnia peribadi’ at Istana Nurul Iman. May 29, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Another recipient, Norapi Yamat, is the carer of her 43-year-old sister-in-law, Dokot Amir, who has Down Syndrome.

She says she has spent half of her life taking care of Dokot, as well as her own family.

“I feel like it is something that no one person should do by themselves. At least in our household, caring for Dokot feels like a community effort.

“From myself to my mother-in-law, to my husband’s siblings who live away from us, we make sure that there will always be someone there for Dokot, to care for her needs including her monthly appointments at RIPAS hospital.

Norapi Yamat (L) and her sister-in-law Dokot Amir (C) pictured after receiving the ‘kurnia peribadi’ at Istana Nurul Iman on May 29, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Norapi says that welfare assistance for persons with disabilities is crucial, as their families often take on a huge financial burden. The extra care and attention needed for special needs individuals is difficult for low-income households to maintain, she adds.

The kurnia peribadi will be used for Dokot’s welfare, as well as to buy her new baju kurung for Hari Raya, a treat she enjoys immensely every year.

The kurnia helps families like ours enjoy the festive season with without the added stress of trying to meet ends meet, Norapi says.

For 21-year-old student, Mohd Yusdinata Abdullah, he says while grateful for the kurnia, he hopes the government will help needy families secure jobs.

Coming from a low-income household in Kampong Ayer, both of his parents are unemployed and he is the eldest of 10 siblings.

Yusdinata says he is determined to break his family out of poverty, but acknowledged how difficult it is to find work at the moment due to high unemployment.

“Right now I am trying to pursue my studies, to get a better position in life and the the future, but nowadays it’s difficult to find jobs even for someone with an education.

“I just want to help my family out in any way that I can.”

Souvenirs are given to recipients of the ‘kurnia peribadi’ as they leave Istana Nurul Iman on May 29, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Wednesday saw 9,570 recipients from the Brunei-Muara and Tutong receive the kurnia at Istana Nurul Iman and Tutong Community Hall. The remaining 10,343 recipients from Brunei-Muara, Belait and Temburong districts will receive their kurnia on Thursday.