Removing barriers to social support
Updated: Sep 15
“When my little brother came to sleep (in my house) this year, his house had been infested by bedbugs. His wife was admitted to the hospital (and) I said ‘You are a man, why are you scared (of sleeping alone) like a girl!’” said Mdm Rokiah in jest.
As much as she tries to dissuade from him coming over, turning him away completely is difficult after all that they went through together. Growing up, Mdm Rokiah only had her 2 siblings and their grandmother, and life was a struggle.
“When I was a girl, my grandmother and I made some kueh and snacks to sell, then my little brother would carry the kueh in a basket and peddle it around the kampong,” shared Mdm Rokiah. “We were poor, so we had to make something to sell. I ever wanted to buy something that cost only 10 cents but I couldn’t afford it.”
When her grandmother received a marriage proposal, Mdm Rokiah went from the kitchen making kueh to moving in with her husband without the opportunity to finish school.
Now at 73 years old, Mdm Rokiah lives alone after her husband passed away in 2015 from lung disease. Without any children of her own, Mdm Rokiah relies financially on government assistance and sometimes sees her adopted grand-daughter.
Most days, Mdm Rokiah spends her time doing laundry, and tidying up her house. “What I can still do my own, I do slowly,” she adds.
But multiple health conditions including diabetes, chronic kidney disease and an amputated toe makes routine housework and extra cleaning difficult for Mdm Rokiah.
To make matters worse, the bed bug infestation became a barrier for plans to arrange for house-keeping services to support her. “These bedbugs, once they have spread, are really difficult (to get rid of). When the bed bugs bit me, it would be itchy and then I couldn’t go to sleep,” said Mdm Rokiah.
After her case was referred to Project HomeWorks, it took 3 staff-powered Project HomeWorks sessions to get the infestation under control. Big furniture like her bed frame and wardrobe had to be discarded, while her clothes were sent for a hot wash at the laundromat.
By the second session, Mdm Rokiah happily reported that she no longer gets bitten at night and can sleep better. “My house is clean now, thank you very much. I’m grateful really, (because) you lifted the wardrobe and everything else that needed to be discarded - who else would want to help me like this? I feel happy,” she added.
Project HomeWorks sessions have become increasingly costly, with each homeowner taking more sessions than average to serve due to our small staff team. If you've been moved by the tangible improvements we've been bringing to our homeowners' lives, we ask you to consider joining us as a Habitat HopeBuilder to continue bringing help to vulnerable Singaporeans in need.