“How can one person be living in such a condition?” That was the question Thomas Lim asked himself when he first joined Project HomeWorks. Thinking back to the first few houses he worked on as volunteer, Thomas recalls one that left the deepest impression on him.
Well into her 80s and practically half blind, an elderly mother lived in a one-room rental flat with her two mentally handicapped adult children in their 50s. Their house was severely infested with cockroaches, and the kitchen was covered in soot stains from years of cooking with charcoal.
Half a day’s worth of work later, the house was on its way to looking like a brand-new home. And what kept the volunteers motivated was seeing the son pitch in and help during the clean-up. “The reasons why I’m still doing it is because I love the before and after impact. And it’s really much more fulfilling,” says Thomas.
Volunteering work has always been a part of Thomas’ life. Before he found Habitat, he was already working with other organisations on food distribution to needy families and befriending the local elderly. But he was looking for something more impactful. “I went in without any expectation for the first HomeWorks session and from there onwards, I told myself they have my full commitment,” says the 46-year-old.
A local programme run by Habitat for Humanity Singapore, Project HomeWorks focuses on working with vulnerable persons and families who need help transforming their rental flats into a safe and sanitary homes. Elderly or persons with disabilities living alone with little or no family support, and single-income families with young children are typical examples of families served under Project HomeWorks.
Volunteers work alongside Habitat Singapore to rehabilitate the houses through intensive cleaning, clearing of bed bug or other pest infestations, re-painting stained walls and replacing broken or bed bug-infested furniture.
Fast forward 4 years to today, Thomas is now a HomeWorks Champion and helps to lead Project HomeWorks sessions alongside Habitat Singapore staff at least once a month. He’s been involved in almost 40 Project HomeWorks sessions, all the while juggling family life with his two children and running his own company.
“Doing HomeWorks just keeps me grounded on what’s going on, which we normally don’t see in print or media. And this is a societal problem. We have to do our part to help out as much as we can.”
As a HomeWorks Champion, Thomas working closely with volunteer teams where he can mentor and inspire youths. Being able to share the same passion he has for community work and see it take root when they step up to volunteer on their own is a feeling that can’t be matched.
“To be complete as a human being, I think we should at least learn the extent of how much we can give to whoever requires help. That’s something that we have inculcate in our youths and they will think twice about taking things granted in the future.”