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  • Habitat for Humanity Singapore

Women building for women: Helping two mothers' quest for their dream homes

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

As women everywhere were championing female rights on International Women's Day, Hesti only had 1 wish: to bring her children back under one roof and live as a family again.

“I need this house so that I can be reunited with my children," said the 41-year-old single mother. Working as a seamstress in a garment factory in Batam, Hesti's salary was barely enough to provide for her two children.

Her son, 15, lives with his grandparents on another island altogether on West Sumatra. Her daughter, 9, lives with an older cousin, who is a civil servant and receives additional government allowance to care for up to 2 children.

For years, Hesti was living by herself in a small rented apartment near her workplace. She finally saved up enough money to buy a small house she could afford - but it was an old house that did not even have a back wall of its own. Picture a U-shaped structure that was attached to the back of another house - with holes all around. If it wasn't rats running in and out during the dry season, it was water flooding down the hill on the street she lives on and through her walls. Even with a house of her own, Hesti knew it was no place to raise her children.

Hesti was one of the two mothers whom our all-female volunteers were supporting for Women's Build 2019 in Batam, Indonesia. The 15 women volunteers joining Habitat Singapore were split into 2 teams to work on building 2 houses. A key supporter and driver of this year's Women’s Build was host/presenter and vocal activist Anita Kapoor, who led one team. The second team comprised of women employees from Arup, a design firm.

From hand-mixing concrete, tying reinforcement bars and laying bricks to build walls, the women persevered in the unrelenting Batam heat to complete as much of the work as they could in the 2 days.

When you strip away the obvious differences like country of residence and living situation, Gustina and her husband's story mirrors that of the typical young Singaporean couple waiting for a BTO flat. Married with their 5-year-old daughter and a second baby on the way, they have been living in rented apartments for years as they slowly saved up money for their own house.

It took them 3 years to save up their earnings as a construction labourer and laundry worker (and a loan) to finally buy a small plot of land. All they could afford on their salaries after such a huge expense was scraps of plywood and zinc sheets to start building a house on their land.

With no electricity and running water, Gustina and her husband struggled between worrying about their children in this state and saving money for the hospital delivery.

Gustina's husband, Maratua believed the arrival of the volunteers beckoned a hopeful future for his family: "We Indonesians have a saying that every child is a blessing itself and also brings even more blessings to the family. We’re really happy because the blessings from this second child is already happening now in the form of our new Habitat house.”

“We’re really excited and happy because even though it’s not yet completed, we can see ourselves living a better life in the new home once it’s done, together with our newest addition to the family," he added.

When volunteers join a Global Village, it's not just about raising a physical structure that will be raised from the ground. We build because we believe families like Hesti and Gustina's deserve a chance to build the hope and confidence they need to invest in a stronger future for themselves and their children.


If you'd like to be a part of our ever-growing community of builders, find out more about our upcoming build trips and other ways you can be involved in building homes and building hope for families everywhere. Sign up for our mailing list or visit our Global Village / Project HomeWorks pages.


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