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  • Habitat for Humanity Singapore

The family ties that bind

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

How do we even begin to describe the Koh family? The family of five, who live together in a 2-bedroom HDB flat, consist of the Koh parents and their three children who all suffer from mental health issues.

Full of flair and character, one could easily mistake their regular bickering as a form of internal strife but it soon became apparent that this was done out of their immense love for each other. Ultimately, they are a family who sticks with each other through the thick and thin, and getting to know them was such a delight.

Project HomeWorks became such a jovial affair thanks to dad Mr Koh who peppered the tedium of decluttering and cleaning with lighthearted jokes.

He chuckled as he showed the Habitat team his “horse” (i.e. the mobility device he uses to get around). Upon seeing the photos taken of him, he joyfully proclaimed that he looked just like a superstar. And what about his family then? Mr Koh joked that they were actually a company where his son is the manager and his wife the director. Mr Koh’s role? A turtle. Trust that we were equally confused but thoroughly amused as Mr Koh laughed at his own joke. It all made for good fun.

Also a creative spirit, we found many interesting DIY furniture and decorations in the home, all made by Mr Koh himself. It injected a fun personal touch to the home. For example, Mr Koh used brown tape to cover his wardrobe, wall and table to make it look like one whole piece of furniture! As we were installing a new wardrobe, we literally had to use a knife to slice the tape to make way.

Seemingly on the polar end of the spectrum was mom, Mrs Koh (who requested not to have her photo published). A stern lady, Mrs Koh countered each of Mr Koh’s blithe jokes with admonishment, scolding her husband for sacrificing his health when he used to skip meals to buy toys for the children when they were younger, which she pointedly highlighted now filled every corner of the home.

This appeared to be a usual dynamic for the Koh parents – a rather one-sided bickering. The reproaches of Mrs Koh, which are laughed off by Mr Koh. While initially jarring, it became evident that they both loved their three children very much.

Mrs Koh shared that the reason why she puts on a tough facade is to ensure that the state of the house doesn’t get too bad, and that the family remains well-taken care off. Considering that some of the family members showed hoarding tendencies, sometimes, tough love is essential. She continues to cook for the whole family daily, and expressed worry for her youngest daughter, who works part-time and carries the majority of caretaking responsibilities. If possible, she hoped her children could have a better life.

With Mr Koh, we saw how he treated his children as equals despite them having mental health conditions. He laughed endearingly and cheered his son on when his son exclaimed that he was a superstar too (yes, just like dad!). Looking at the photos taken of them both, Mr Koh lovingly said with pride that they looked alike. It was tiny moments like such which revealed the strength of the family.

As we decluttered the place, we uncovered many toys from long ago, which the Koh parents found difficult to throw out. They explained that the items held precious sentimental value, and they liked to look at them and reminisce the past from time to time.

Due to Mr Koh’s health condition and Mrs Koh’s joint issues, they were unable to clean the place thoroughly. As they are both unable to work with only two of their children bringing home a meagre income, they were also unable to afford the additional cost of cleaning services. As such, over two sessions, they partnered with Habitat Singapore to refresh their home. We hope that it will continue to be a place of love and solace for the Koh family, as they do life together as a family.

You can support more vulnerable families like the Kohs by donating to our #HomeThisChristmas campaign today! We hope to serve 32 additional homes and we need your help to do so. Every dollar raised will empower another Singaporean to live in dignity. Gift someone a #HomeThisChristmas today!


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