- Habitat for Humanity Singapore
Winning the 83-year war on bed bugs
At a time when the whole world is keeping safe by staying home, Uncle Chong's only refuge was his bed bug-infested rental flat in North Bridge Road.
His battle with bed bugs had been a life-long one: "I was getting bitten by bed bugs for all 83 years of my life, from the day I was born until now."
Before the government resettled kampung villages into flats, Uncle Chong grew up in an old wooden house with his parents and 6 siblings. Back then, bed bugs were everywhere in the wooden floorboards and walls.
"I’ve moved houses so many times, from the old wooden house to the flats in Beach Road. And the bed bugs also moved with me. My mother couldn’t bear to throw away the old wooden furniture like the cabinets. If we threw it away, where would we get the money to replace it?" said Uncle Chong.
Decades-old furniture his siblings held on to meant the bed bugs followed Uncle Chong into his current flat that he used to share with his younger brother. Although there are plenty of anti-bed bug sprays in the market, Uncle Chong said a small bottle costing $9 to $10 can quickly become expensive, especially now that he can no longer work.
It was only after the recent passing of his younger brother last August that Uncle Chong was finally able to get rid of the old cabinets and desk. "If i wake up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, I’ll get bitten and won’t be able to go back to sleep," he said.
Uncle Chong's case was referred to Project HomeWorks at a time when we had to suspend external volunteers to minimize accidental transmission of the COVID-19 virus. With precautionary measures in place, Uncle Chong became the second case prioritized for our staff-powered HomeWorks sessions.
Spread out over 2 sessions, the staff team helped Uncle Chong with discarding his old furniture; de-cluttering & repacking his belongings; scrubbing off bed bug nests on his walls; deep-cleaning his floors, kitchen and bathroom; sealing up all gaps between walls and electrical casings with caulk; re-painting his walls; and setting up his new bed.
Stepping into his home at the end of all the work, Uncle Chong said it felt like he was in a completely brand new house: "The window used to be so dirty and blurry, I couldn’t see anything outside. But now it’s so clean and makes the house so bright."
It was the smile on his face that held the full depth of his gratitude to all the care he had received. In his own simple yet sincere words, Uncle Chong added: "I’m too old to have been able to do this. Seeing the younger generation helping seniors like me makes me feel very happy. The government already told us older folks to stay home and rest. Now I can do that happily without bed bugs. Thank you for your help."
It took 83 years and a little bit of help, but Uncle Chong has won the battle. For the first time in his life, he can finally live in clean and healthy home, free of bed bugs.