At 5pm, the children of Puspanesam Home were taking turns for an evening shower before dressing up for a birthday celebration.
It was not any of their birthdays but a family was bringing a child's birthday celebration to the home to share it with the children.
A buffet spread was arranged in the porch and the caterer was waiting for the satay man to start the fire to cook and serve freshly grilled skewers of meat.
The sumptuous meal was a much-anticipated event for the 15 children who live together in the shelter as a family.
During festive seasons, there may be invitations to goodwill events where they enjoy better meals but they live frugally and any change in their routine is welcome.
Recently, they enjoyed a special treat as guests of Soroptimists International Johor Baru to watch a charity screening of the Disney-Pixar animated movie Cars 2 at Cathay Cineplex in City Square Johor Baru.
Puspanesam Home, or Pertubuhan Kebajikan Puspanesam, was registered as a charity home in 2004 by Devanasam David John, 58, a single lady with a big heart for children in need.
The shelter started with only three children and went on to accept more who were orphaned and those of single parents who cannot take care of them because of full-time jobs.
Her name, Devanasam, translates as "God's Love" in Tamil and the shelter is named Puspanesam, which has a simple logo of a flower (puspa) set within a heart shape (to represent love).
Born in Ipoh as the ninth child in a family of 15 siblings, Devanasam is familiar with the adversity and challenges faced by a large family.
She was a sickly child who suffered from asthma. Since she was often absent from school, her parents decided to drop her out of school when she was 16.
Her love for children led her to work at her church, teaching Sunday School classes in Tamil and English.
After seven years of working with the children, the church asked her to work as a clerk in the office and she had the opportunity to learn typewriting and office skills.
She continued to be involved with the church's social work and spent two years helping out at a kindergarten in an estate.
Over the years, Devanasam felt the call to help needy children but it was in the mid 1990s, when she moved to live in Johor Baru, that an unexpected turn of events brought the first three children to her.
"God emptied me and filled me up," said Devanasam, describing her long involvement with social work and helping children that led to a fulfilling job in running a shelter for children in Ulu Tiram.
The boys and girls aged between 4 and 14 are orphans or from broken homes. Those who have never known a mother's love are especially needy and they are cared for like her own.
She started the shelter in a rented single-storey terrace house and when the number of children increased, she expanded the shelter into the adjacent house.
When troubled women with young children sought her help, Devanasam accepted them into the shelter.
"So far three families have been united," said Devanasam about how the husband and wife were counselled and left afterwards with their children to live as a family again.
When several middle-aged women were accepted into the shelter, the living arrangements had to be reorganised.
Abandoned by their families, they were depressed and needed help. Now the children are housed in a separate single-storey semi-detached house while the two units of linked single-storey terrace houses shelter abandoned women and the office and store.
"The children who are not academically strong are encouraged to be trained in tailoring, beauty care and cooking skills," she said.
They have started a tailoring class. An instructor comes in to teach the women and girls on Saturday mornings. However, there are difficulties as they have only one manual and one electric sewing machine.
Devanasam is grateful for the help she is receiving from regular sponsors who pay the monthly rent for the two units of terrace houses and contribute towards the payment of expenses.
The expenses of the shelter amount to RM6,000 per month. The sum covers the rental of the semi-detached house, utility bills, food, school transport fees and other basic necessities.
Aware of their need, the landlord of the semi-detached house has given them permission to make the necessary building renovations to accommodate the children more comfortably.
While there are plans to extend the building, mend the fences and install a large water tank which someone had donated, they are short of funds.
At the moment they are managing with their limited resources but Devanasam maintains that a consistent water supply is essential for a house full of children.
Puspanesam Home is located at 20, Jalan Intan, Taman Ros, Ulu Tiram, and Devanasam can be reached at 012-737 8113 and 017-208 8113.