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  • Yong Teck Meng, National Director

Happy Birthday to us!

My staff just reminded me that our birthday is coming up this Saturday, and it will be our 13th birthday!

This certainly brings back fond memories of the early days of Habitat for Humanity Singapore, when I was the first volunteer-Chairman tasked with setting up the operation here in Singapore. I had the help of many wonderful volunteers back then, including volunteers who had gone on to participate in house-builds in Korea before Habitat Singapore even existed.

On paper, Habitat Singapore was registered with the authorities about 2 years earlier, but there were no actual operations. We got together a working board of directors, hired our first staff, and started operating from a small office space at Cluny Road, renting a space from Operation Mobilization.

After we started operations, we were visited by the founders of Habitat for Humanity, the late Millard Fuller and Linda his wife. We decided that the day of his visit would mark our official opening, and that's how we started on 11th March 2004! Millard and Linda both signed a certificate that carried the old Habitat Singapore logo that I designed (well, I actually just added the word "Singapore" to the old Habitat logo").

I am not a big fan of birthday celebration (hence the need for my people to remind me of this birthday). Growing up, my family was struggling with everyday living, and like many Chinese families of the day, my parents did not bother too much with such "luxuries". I recall having one birthday party when I was 10 I think, and that's it (my wife insisted that she had none).

But I suppose it is important to pause from time to time, and give thanks for life and all its beauty and graces. For Habitat Singapore, I am very, very thankful for the support of so many volunteers and donors, walking with us in this never-ending journey of poverty-fighting. I am also very thankful for a wonderful team of co-workers, past and present, for putting in their serious heart-and-soul effort to the work we do. And of course, all these are impossible without God, who really is the reason why we get to have the privilege of doing the work we do.

In all birthday celebrations, we would want to wish that the birthday person "live long and prosper" (yeah, I am a science-fiction geek as well). But in our case, we ought to wish for a day that Habitat for Humanity would no longer need to exist, because we have eliminated poverty housing. Ironically and sadly, that is not yet the case. Our late founder estimated that at the rate that Habitat for Humanity and all similar charities are working at around the world to fighting poverty, it will take us 7,000 years to eliminate poverty housing from the face of this earth! Nonetheless, we will continue to persevere, and work at eliminating this enormous problem wherever we are, with whatever we have, in partnership with whoever is willing; so that when we meet our Maker, we would be satisfied that we have done our best in life.

So here's wishing that we do not need to exist! Happy birthday to us!


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