Unloved, bullied and given away, Qi Qi asked: “Would I have someone I can call Father?”

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains material about suicide attempts. Reader discretion advised.

Stories of Hope // July 10, 2024, 2:36 pm

Qi Qi childhood jpg

Just before her wedding in 2010, Qi Qi (pictured at ages one and two) received a dozen childhood photos after tracking down a member of the first family she lived with. They are the only photos she has of her growing up years. Photos courtesy of Aw Qi Qi.

For the first nine years of her life, she was punished for infringements such as taking chocolate from the fridge without asking for permission.

When she had tantrums and meltdowns, she would be “caned while bathing, trapped and left in darkness till morning, or chased out of the house”.

“My siblings were doted on. I was the one who wasn’t loved.”

She recalls hiding under the table to escape from a caregiver who would “use the belt and hit me all of a sudden”.

Sometimes she would experience the simultaneous wrath of the two adults in her life whom she grew up thinking were her biological parents. 

“My siblings were doted on. I was the one who wasn’t loved,” said Aw Qi Qi, now 35.

Aw Qi Qi

Today, Qi Qi is happily married and has a family of her own. She is a primary school tutor.

“Perhaps it was because my personality clashed with theirs. They probably didn’t know how to handle my so-called misbehaviour,” she guessed.

Her happiest day 

When Qi Qi was 8 years old, an aunt took her to Sunday School.

“It was the happiest day of my life. I enjoyed the colouring, and the teachers were very kind and loving,” Qi Qi recalled.

“I felt a peace I never felt before, and said a prayer to invite Jesus into my heart.”

Aw Qi Qi

Qi Qi and her husband Jeffrey Aw welcomed their first of three children into the world in 2013.

When it came time to return home, Qi Qi bawled at the gate and refused to enter the house. 

“I guessed I wanted the peacefulness of the church back,” she explained.

“But because of my uncontrollable emotions, I was not allowed to go to church anymore.”

However, Qi Qi had learnt about Jesus and His love for her. 

“My aunt said, ‘If you need help, you can pray to Jesus.’

“So I prayed, ‘God if you are real, please take me away from here’.”

“Pack your things”

Less than a year later, Qi Qi was told to pack her things.

“I was told, ‘We are sending you away. We don’t want you anymore.’

“So in a way, God answered the very first prayer I prayed in my life,” recalled Qi Qi.

“Thoughts flooded my mind: ‘I’m useless. I’m unwanted. Nobody cares.'”

Qi Qi was driven to a middleman’s home, where she was handed over to the person she calls her “foster mother”.

As a parting shot, she was told: “Even the dog behaves better than you.”

She recalled: “There was no ‘Be good’ or ‘Love your new family’.

“I didn’t cry. I was too young to process it.” 

Qi Qi later chanced upon documents that showed that the new family had adopted her. 

“It hit me that I had been given up. I felt very lonely. I kept thinking, ‘Why was I abandoned?’

“Thoughts flooded my mind: ‘I’m useless. I’m unwanted. Nobody cares.’ I felt my being here was a mistake,” she recalled.

“Would I ever be loved?”

“I couldn’t accept my foster parents as my parents,” Qi Qi said.

“My foster mother adopted me as she wanted a daughter to look after her in her old age. But my foster parents had their own issues and hurts and did not deal with me in a positive manner.”

“There was a deep yearning in my heart to be loved, to be accepted.”

A small ray of light existed in her adoptive parents’ two sons. Qi Qi’s new older brothers played video games with her and took her shopping for books.

“One brother lent me money to pay for my polytechnic fees. Even today, he has a good relationship with my daughters. The other is like a father who teaches me little nuggets of wisdom as I navigate life,” she said.

However, their care was not enough to prevent her from spiralling into a battle with depression and low self-esteem.

On top of that, she was made to doubt that she was biologically related to the people who gave her away.

“There was a deep yearning in my heart to be loved, to be accepted.

“I asked myself, ‘Would I ever be loved? Would I ever have someone whom I can call Father? Would there be anyone to stretch out their hand to protect me?’”

Hiding in the school toilet 

The effects of being abandoned and rejected also affected Qi Qi’s school life.

“I was very traumatised and trembled when one girl used vulgarities on me.”

On the advice of a fortune teller, her foster parents changed her birth name to “Qi Qi” when she was in Primary 5.

“The teacher told the class it was because I had been adopted. Everyone laughed at me,” she said.

By the age of 14, she was “a total wreck”.

“Not only did I have to deal with the lack of love at home, the bullying got worse.

“During recess time, I took my food into the school toilet and ate there alone. Somehow, people had turned their back against me and didn’t seem to like me,” she said.

“They spread rumours about me. Someone started a petition and collected signatures from everyone to get me kicked out of school.

“I was very traumatised and trembled when one girl used vulgarities on me each time she walked past.”

Cry baby

By then, Qi Qi had been growing in her faith and attending church regularly after her foster mum became a Christian.

It was an answer to a prayer she had prayed when she was 11 while kneeling in an empty chapel after school. She had asked a classmate to take her there.

“It felt very peaceful there. I told God, I wanted to know who He is,” recalled Qi Qi.

“I knew that the peace I felt in church when I was 8 and 11 was real. When I prayed, I knew that God is real,” she said.

She prayed softly when passing the bullies in school, and noticed the atmosphere change.

So she prayed softly when passing the bullies in school, and noticed the atmosphere change.

“Their words didn’t hit me as much as before. A few of them even smiled encouragingly at me, as though they didn’t agree with what their friends were doing,” recalled Qi Qi.

However, Qi Qi still struggled emotionally. Until she was a polytechnic student, she was known as “a cry baby”.

“Every single day, I would cry. I would cry when someone said something about me. I would cry when someone did something as minor as hiding my pencil case.

“Mentally, I was not well. I couldn’t focus at school, and also cried over my studies.

Aw Qi Qi

“Despite not doing well in secondary school and polytechnic, I excelled in university, which my husband had encouraged me to attend. I graduated two weeks after giving birth to our second child.”

“I told God, ‘Why did you bring me to this earth?’” Qi Qi recalled, tears coming to her eyes. “‘Take me away so that I will suffer less.’”

When it got too much to bear, she attempted to end her life – several times.

“The voice said, ‘Your days of darkness shall be over soon. You’ll have happy days to come’.”

“Once, I stood in the middle of a busy road, hoping a car will come zooming towards me, but that day, the road was empty.

“I also spent many long hours standing at the 10th storey of my HDB block, but I never had the courage to jump.”

“There was always a voice in me that said, ‘Your days of darkness shall be over soon. You’ll have happy days to come’.

“Sometimes it came as an audible voice; at other times, an impression.

“It was as if God was saying, ‘I’m going to use you for something. So you’re not allowed to leave yet.’”

Aw Qi Qi

Qi Qi was 22 and Jeff 24 when they tied the knot in 2010.

After each time she thought of ending her life, Qi Qi returned home and fell into a deep sleep. It was restorative.

“Sleeping for long hours was the only way I knew how to cope. My record was sleeping for three days and two nights – only waking up to drink and go to the toilet.”

“Pain escaping from my body”

Healing from the pain and trauma, however, would take years.

In 2008, at a church camp in Kuantan, Qi Qi took the first step on her road to recovery.

The speaker, Michael Ross Watson, talked about overcoming rejection. When he asked those who wanted to be prayed for to come forward, Qi Qi responded.

“When he prayed for me, I screamed … It was as if the bitterness was trying to escape from my body.” 

“I told Michael everything I was facing and what I went through.

“When he prayed for me, I screamed a lot. It was as if the pain, bitterness and resentment was trying to escape from my body.

“I felt a burden lift from me.”

Qi Qi also learnt that the key to real freedom from pain and fear was in forgiving those who had hurt her. She couldn’t do it alone – she did it with God’s help.

“That day, I sat down and forgave every single person in my life who had hurt me.

“Forgiveness, however, is not a one-time act, but a constant process,” she said.

“Give up the longing”

At a church meeting in 2010 – the year she got married – she heard God tell her: “Give up the longing to get to know who your biological parents are.”

Said Qi Qi: “When I heard that, I broke down and cried. I told God, ‘How can that be?’

“I told Him, ‘I spent 11 years of my life trying to find out who I am. I was laughed at by people because I didn’t know who my parents were. And all of a sudden, You want me to give that up?’”

Qi Qi cried and struggled with it for a long time. But in the end, told God: “I will surrender it to You, I will not ask anymore.”

When she obeyed, she heard God say: “Do you know I am more than your earthly parents? I am the Father who loves you so much. You are My child.”

Aw Qi Qi

“God told me Himself that I am His child,” said Qi Qi, who was also embraced by Jeff’s family.

Said Qi Qi: “I recognised that my identity is in Christ.”

“So my first adoption was into the first family. My second adoption was into my foster family.

“And now, my third and final adoption is into the family of God, where I have someone so loving to call my Heavenly Father.”

Escorted to safety, not abandoned

However, two years after getting married, Qi Qi started having flashbacks of painful incidents from her growing up years. The post-traumatic stress threw her into an emotional tailspin and affected her marriage. (Stay tuned for this story.)

“Time and time again, God showed up in my depressive moments and showed me how much He loves me.

“In the darkest times of my life, He never allowed me to walk alone.”

Qi Qi promised God that when she recovered, she would share the story of how He has always been there for her. This moment finally came 14 years after she surrendered her longing to know who she was.

“I saw four angels on the day I was sent out of my first home and given to my foster parents.”

During a sermon at church in early 2024, she experienced a flashback of the moment she was sent out of her first home and given to her foster parents.

“I saw two angels on either side of me when I walked out of the house.

“I felt God say to me, ‘There is a difference between being abandoned and being escorted out. You have not been abandoned. You are being escorted to a safe place.’

“I also saw two angels guarding the door of the house so that whatever was in the old house could no longer come after me to hurt me.

“It wasn’t a wow moment, but I breathed a sigh of relief.”

She knew then that she had truly healed.

“I knew that it was time to share my story. Not to tell of what others had done to me, but to tell the world of what God has done for me. He is real, He is a true and living God.”

This story first appeared on Stories of Hope.

Coming up: Qi Qi and Jeff’s love story – and how they overcame the post-traumatic stress of her growing up years.


“I didn’t understand love until I came to their home”: Abandoned by his parents, he thought he’d never belong until this family stepped in

Abandoned as a baby, she now brings hope and healing to broken youths

Loving the father who abandoned me twice

About the author

Stories of Hope

Stories of Hope is a growing collection of real accounts by real people of how they found hope in their darkest hour. It is the companion site of Salt&Light.