In the Bible, the name Nehemiah refers to a historical person who led the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, laid in ruins during the rule of Artaxerxes, King of Persia (445/444 BC). Habitat for Humanity Asia Pacific office adopted this name in awarding the distinguished Nehemiah Award, which is awarded to the individual who has shown exceptional service to the mission of Habitat for Humanity. I am happy to announce that our board member Debbie Talbot has been awarded this year ’s Nehemiah Award, together with other deserving volunteers in the Asia Pacific region.
Since the year 2009, Debbie had participated in 8 house builds in Batam and 1 in Kuching, and seven housecleaning sessions in Singapore. She has engaged many of her friends through the Australian International School Parent Association, a volunteer group named Speakeasy Crew and others to participate in all these activities. Altogether, she has raised more than $100,000 for Habitat through the years.
In honouring Debbie, I think of the thousands of volunteers who have supported us in one way or another. Each of them is precious in our sight; so it’s a difficult task to single out someone to honour because we could be doing a disservice to others who have significantly contributed, but less prominently. This could include people who sit on our board of directors to the volunteers who come in regularly to our office just to help us with mundane work.
But I am not particularly worried about this because I certainly know what it is like to be a volunteer; especially since I founded Habitat for Humanity Singapore as a volunteer, together with an initial group of dedicated people who made up our first board of directors. The fact is that those who truly understand what volunteering is all about would not care too much about being recognised; such is the paradox of honouring a true volunteer. Conversely, those who seek prominent recognition probably would not be volunteering in any significant manner.
Still, it is right and good that we acknowledge with gratitude the effort of folks like Debbie, lest we become complacent and take our volunteers for granted. The fact is that without our volunteers, Habitat for Humanity would not exist. I am deeply thankful and appreciative for the opportunity to work with so many people through the years.
I have often been asked how we can produce volunteers like Debbie, and I truly have no answer to that question. I would say that these people are described by the Bible as people who are “pure in heart”, and one can only meet them, not make them. And when one gets to meet them, then enjoy the journey together! The joy and sense of fulfilment when we journey together to make this world a better place are truly beyond words.
So to Debbie and all our volunteers, thank you again from the bottom of our hearts. May God continue to bless you and your loved ones for your kindness.