Nadim van der Ros, Founder of Be An Idea, shares his personal motivations for bringing people together to build homes under Habitat for Humanity’s Batam Build programme.
As the founder of a consultancy that facilitates meaningful dialogues for positive change, it is no surprise that Nadim is passionate about making a meaningful impact in the communities around him. While the actual work he does with community organisations delivers value on a strategic level, he sees the community work the consultancy does as an important way to get involved directly in making a difference. “I was working many of social purpose organisations, but the practical hands-on experience was missing. We developed our community work programme as a way to get people in our universe – employees, clients, friends – involved in making a difference on the ground with partner organisations like Habitat,” he shares.
At the heart of his volunteering and community support work is Nadim’s personal philosophy of “resilience in service” which believes that communities grow more robust by serving them. It is an ethos that stems from his own personal background. “If anyone has led a charmed life, I pretty much have,” he reflects. “I was put up for adoption in Indonesia and was lucky to be adopted by Dutch parents. I had access to the benefits of being raised in the UK and have had access to the best schooling one could hope for. It’s only right that I find a way to devote my energy to giving back.”
As a result, Nadim spends time actively volunteering in Singapore through the Singapore Red Cross as a first aider and other local initiatives where he can. His support for the Batam Build programme is driven by two different perspectives. On a practical level, it’s about exposing himself to a type of community building that is very physical and visceral. By organising volunteers to participate in a team to build houses and communities, it exposes people to something positive in a way they may never have experienced before.
On a more strategic level, Nadim believes that serving the communities in neighbouring countries only makes them more resilient and that in turn helps make Singapore safer. “If the communities around ours are strong, our community also becomes more robust. If our neighbours can have better lives and be happy, not only do they benefit, but we do as well,” he notes. “Look, you can see Singapore and Marina Bay Sands from Batam. It’s easy for them to point to us and say, they are different. But if we’ve been involved in helping them to build their communities up, we become less different for them and we can find common ground.”
The work on the Batam Builds are hard and Nadim often finds himself managing his team’s expectations. He tells them that even though they may not be able to finish a house in a day, everything they do – from digging the foundation to forming human chains to move bricks – is important work that moves the process of community building forward. “Even if you can’t finish the work during the time given, that work is built on by others and frees up time and resources that can be used where it is needed,” he says.
Working alongside the homeowner is a unique part of Habitat’s ethos regarding homebuilding, and Nadim feels it is an important reminder to him and his team that human lives are impacts by the work they are doing. On one build, the closing ceremony at the end of the build was an emotional experience for both homeowner and the volunteers alike. The homeowner, a single mother, was so happy that her children now had a place to live and study without exposure to the elements, such as a water dripping through when it rained. While he understands the gratitude, what is important for him is to help empower the homeowners to build their lives to be better. “At the end of the day, like Habitat, our volunteers are there to build up the dignity of the villagers,” he shares.
By living out his personal philosophy of “resilience in service”, Nadim sees a strong partner in Habitat for Humanity by building decent homes in decent communities. When families do well, the whole community flourishes, and that is the ultimate end goal for our Batam Build programme.
To find out more about Habitat for Humanity’s Batam Build programme or how you can make the programme a part of your company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, visit our Batam Build page!