- Anne-Marie de Lafforest
Supporter Spotlight: Jovanka Lim's birthday pledge to give back
Updated: May 19, 2021
L-R: boyfriend Andre, birthday girl Joranka and best friend Shanay
It’s tradition for us to celebrate ourselves on our birthday, with cake, presents, and a party or a night out. But the repetitiveness of this yearly ritual got Jovanka Lim thinking about how to make her 26th birthday a more meaningful one.
After a little research, Jovanka decided to gift her time and energy to volunteer with Project Homeworks, in order to help vulnerable Singaporeans in the community. She also brought along her best friend, Shanay, and boyfriend, Andre, whom she says needed little to no convincing to join her.
“Recently one of the biggest things I was feeling was gratitude. I thought this was a great way to give back and show gratitude for everything I have in my life,” said Jovanka.
Jovanka is no stranger to volunteering or Habitat for Humanity’s work. Her sister has joined house builds with a Habitat affiliate in the U.S. and Jovanka, herself, has spent time volunteering at a school in the remote region of Ladakh, India. Her boyfriend, Andre, had previously joined a build trip with Habitat Indonesia. After some quick research, Jovanka was pleasantly surprised to find a Habitat office in Singapore.
So, on the Saturday before her birthday, Jovanka and her friends turned up bright and early at Lavender to meet the team from Habitat for Humanity Singapore. Their task for the day was to help declutter and repaint a one-room rental flat for a pair of elderly siblings.
With gloves and masks on, they joined eleven other volunteers in clearing the cramped flat. Their apprehension, at the start of the session, quickly turned into determination. They got down on their knees to scrub the floor, then climbed ladders to seal ceiling cracks.
Learning about heartfelt stories from Project HomeWorks led her to choose Habitat Singapore as the organization she would spend her birthday volunteering with. But “reading something on a screen is so different from actually being there,” she added.
When asked how he compared his experience at build sites in Indonesia with Project HomeWorks, Andre said: “I had no expectations and I came in blind. There’s always the first sense of taking everything in and at first it was pretty overwhelming.”
“But like any new situation, it just takes some getting used to. And it really didn’t take us that long because everyone was so nice and so gungho. It was a good experience,” he added.
Eventually, the stained walls were painted white and the new furniture installed. And at the end of the session, their masks could not hide their three smiles because they knew they had just helped give someone the opportunity to continue living in their home, safely and with dignity.
Given the current, uncertain circumstances linked to the pandemic, Jovanka reminds us of the importance of being grateful for what we have and the people that surround us. She feels thankful to have been able to spend the day with those she loves, while also helping others in need.
We could all learn a little something from Jovanka, who chose not to spend her birthday celebrating herself but, instead, honoring the people in her life and community.
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