Growing up with an architect for a father, Matthew (pictured in blue) learnt very early about the importance of a home and what it means to be a family. While he can’t build houses like his dad, Matthew has found a way to continue his father’s legacy by improving the safety and sanitation of homes belonging to vulnerable families in Singapore.
“My father’s career was a big part of his life. He was an architect and even when I was a little kid, I use to be taken around to job sites, and we'd be measuring things. Even after my dad would build a house, he would pop in and see the homeowners and hang out with them. As I reflect back, I realise that home is a member of the family. For example, in most of the world, a house is one of the most valuable things you own, it has this history and becomes sort of the family album or repository of all the family memories. That goes back to why I think Habitat Singapore is such a tremendous organisation to empower and enable people to have a place they can call home. It's an opportunity to continue the legacy that my dad left. Home is part of who you are. Even when I think of the house that I was raised in, for me, it's a part of me.”
The joy of consistent volunteering
As a parent with two young children, Matthew wanted to take part in a volunteering activity that centered around the home and family. He found that Project HomeWorks met this desire and fit in with his lifestyle. As a Project HomeWorks Champion, he trains with Habitat Singapore’s staff to be a volunteer leader & runs house-cleaning sessions for volunteer groups assigned to him. Since signing up as a Champion in late 2016, he has led 14 house-cleaning sessions & counting.
“I love the idea of having a recurring role, of being a Champion where I can be an individual participant, and I like the discipline of contributing monthly. To make an impact on an organisation, you need to have a regular contribution that you can make.
The other good thing is the flexibility. I love that you do HomeWorks on Saturday and leave Sunday for the family to spend time together and go to Church. Now that my two children have started to have programmes on Saturday, I can still be there for my family and allocate some time to continue making a contribution to society.
I was really moved by one homeowner - an elderly gentleman. He had things quite clean, although he had bedbugs and he case profile indicated that his mentally-disabled son would defecate in the hall. You could see how much he loved his son. The two guys were clearly struggling, but they were struggling together. His son was non-communicative (he would just make sounds), but you could see how much the uncle cared for his son. Despite their challenges, the homeowners still put in an effort to work with the volunteers. I realise that that's one of the things that I really like about Habitat Singapore, the whole sweat-equity thing and working with the homeowners. It's one of the things I enjoy the most.”
Growing in compassion and skill
“As a Christian, I believe in the need to have compassion for people. We need to comfort the sick, clothe the poor, and shelter those who have no place to go. And, separate from all the politics of it, often times these people we are helping are some of the most compassionate people. Like the old dad with a mentally disabled son to look after - it is the people who have the least who are providing comfort to those who need it the most. That's how I'm being educated as a Champion.
And, you can even pick up some skills along the way. Although my family isn't ready to let me paint the house yet, I feel I moved up a notch on my skill set at our recent ceiling painting training, and I'm glad we did this last training. I can do this more confidently now. There's an opportunity to build new skills and Habitat Singapore is investing more is us, improving our capabilities.”