Monthly Supporter Spotlight: Diong Bee Chu
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
During these tumultuous times with ever changing COVID-19 safety guidelines and restrictions, we have relied heavily on our Habitat staff and our team of dedicated volunteers to continue serving vulnerable elderly and individuals in need of a proper place to live in. Today we shine the spotlight on one of our longest serving volunteers — Diong Bee Chu.
A polytechnic lecturer by trade, Diong Bee Chu first learnt about Habitat for Humanity Singapore in 2009 when she attended our first walkathon, Bare Your Sole. From there she caught Habitat’s vision and started getting involved in our home-building programme in Batam in 2010 and subsequently in Chiangmai, Thailand and Myanmar. “The concept of Global Village builds (i.e. building houses in underprivileged communities worldwide with Habitat) was one that appealed to me a lot. Having travelled a fair bit, I had witnessed needs on a level that just isn’t seen in Singapore,” said Diong.
Although her busy schedule did not allow her to do as many overseas builds as she would have loved to, Diong quickly turned to Project HomeWorks — Habitat’s local volunteer programme which works with vulnerable persons and families to rehabilitate their homes into a safe and sanitary state. “The first few sessions were shocking simply because it opened my eyes to the disorderly, unhygienic and unsafe environments some people were forced to make a home out of. How can Singapore really call itself a first world country when some of our citizens are living in such dismal conditions?” she questions.
Volunteering with Project HomeWorks is no easy feat and certainly not for the faint-hearted. “I never had much success in enticing friends to join me for Project HomeWorks. The vast majority of them just cannot stomach the fact that meeting cockroaches, bedbugs and endless amounts of grime and dirt are part and parcel of a typical session!” Diong shares.
Her hard work and dedication did not go unseen and Diong was subsequently invited to be a HomeWorks Champion where she had the opportunity to lead teams of volunteers for these sessions. Having a knack for engaging with youth due to the nature of her professional life, she was assigned to lead and mentor volunteer student groups ranging from secondary school right up to university level. “The youthful enthusiasm and energy I witnessed inspired me to greater heights and has always been a great source of motivation to me.”
When the COVID-19 restrictions hit, our Habitat Champions stepped up to form 2-man teams to support our staff in serving vulnerable elderly in our community. Diong was no exception.
With a temporary respite from the usual busy teaching load during the June holidays, Diong was all game to throw herself into the thick of Project HomeWorks. This was how she found herself getting to know Uncle Tng really well over 8 different visits in 1 month.
Uncle Tng has mobility issues and lives with his brother who suffers from dementia. The clutter in the house restricted his movement greatly and the added complication of a bedbug infestation resulted in overall serious health and safety risks for the two elderly men. Besides being bitten by bed bugs nightly, they risked suffering falls or worse, being trapped in the house if a fire breaks out. Driven by the goal of ensuring that Uncle Tng and his brother have a safe and clean place to live with dignity, Diong and her other Champion partner became the 2-man team dedicated to rehabilitating Uncle Tng’s house.
While the initial sessions of sorting through Uncle Tng’s belongings proved to be difficult, the homeowner slowly started to open up to her. Diong learnt that Uncle Tng used to be a taxi driver and would have had all of Singapore’s roads memorised. When they discovered a huge collection of fabrics and sewing materials, Uncle Tng revealed that his late mother was a seamstress. “I am hunmbled by the tenacity and courage shown by homeowners as they overcome all the challenges thrown at them by the unexpected twists and turns of life.” said Diong.
When asked what keeps her going as a HomeWorks Champion, Diong said: “If anyone can lend them a hand, the only question to ask is – why not? It may not seem like a big deal to rehabilitate one small flat since there are probably many more on the waiting list. But to the homeowner, it makes a 100% difference to their lives immediately.”
Inspired by Diong’s story? You too can make a big difference one house at a time by being part of our HomeWorks Champion team! Click here for full details.