Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JP Vermette
As a master electrician by trade, JP (pictured right in the photo above) had spent time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Canada to build houses for families there. And supporting vulnerable families was something JP knew he wanted to continue doing even after moving to Singapore in 2017.
It didn't take long for him to get in touch with Habitat Singapore and within 2 months of living here, JP found himself at his first Project HomeWorks session in December 2017. He's been a regular volunteer ever since, having joined 7 Project HomeWorks sessions to date and even gone for a Batam Build trip in 2018.
Describing himself as a people person, what he enjoyed the most was the opportunity to meet Singaporean homeowners and volunteers, and at the same time better understand the local way of living.
“At my first Project HomeWorks session, I realised that there are elderly in Singapore who need help. I like to challenge myself with new experiences, and each HomeWorks session has been different,” he said. “The older generation and homeowners talk to me about their lives, and they seem genuinely thankful and happy that the volunteers take time from their schedules to come out to help.”
A particular Project HomeWorks session experience stood out for JP: one that involved a younger couple with two children. “The husband suffered from mental health issues, and the wife had some physical disabilities. They sometimes struggled with each other and needed to be separated,” he said.
JP was able to work with the husband to de-clutter their bedroom and was able to build rapport with him by following his lead through the whole process. “When the social worker dropped by during our session, she was pleased with what she saw,” said JP. “At a follow-up Project HomeWorks session in their home, the husband remembered me. He came over to speak to me and was pleased to see me again."
Especially in tricky cases like de-cluttering a home, JP feels understanding the perspective of both the homeowners and volunteers is key. “It’s not easy for them, you know. After all, we’re six or so strangers coming into their home. It’s the best feeling when you finish a job, and they don’t want you to leave,” he said.
As a regular volunteer, JP also tries his best to put newer volunteers at ease, and mentors the youths who may be there as part of their school projects. He said: “Project HomeWorks also provides an opportunity to reflect on our own lives. Home is a place where we find comfort and want to be part of our community. Through my work at Ottawa Mission and Good Shephard, both charities for the homeless in Canada, I’ve seen a lot of people homeless, and on the streets. Here, in Singapore, the elderly require our help too! They often live alone with no one to support them.”
Smiling as he described his interactions with the homeowners, JP adds: “The homeowners approach the volunteers and make an effort to communicate with us even though we don’t speak the same language. When they’re happy with something we’re doing, they smile and give us a ‘thumbs-up’."
“Sometimes my friends ask me, ‘What is this? How do we do it? How can we get involved?’. I invite them to volunteer with me, and if they are shy, I can help take care of them,” JP said.
To everyone else thinking about whether they should join Project HomeWorks, JP only has this to say: “I try to do what I can to help. You can too!"