Building social conscience among the youth
Borneo Post, 22 Oct 2008
WHEN DO WE START: Habitat for Humanity Kuching’s VP and Public Relations Officer, James Lo, HfH Family Mentor Foo Ai Fung and volunteers from Holland, Joost Craenmehr and Joyce Verschuren posing with the Lodge School Secondary’s Form 3 students at the conclusion of the seminar.
KUCHING: Lodge Secondary School’s Form 3 students were treated to an atypical seminar yesterday when Habitat for Humanity delivered a brief introduction on the organization’s founding principles and how it worked to eradicate poverty housing all over Kuching.
A non-profit organization formed in the United States of America in 1976, Habitat for Humanity’s (HfH) Kuching affiliate is the first branch to open in Malaysia. Since 1998, it has completed 50 houses and works the whole year round building proper housing for the less fortunate.
While the inspiration for the seminar comes from the Lodge School’s Chairman of the Board, Gabriel Teo, the move to expose their students to being involved with community projects is something that the Lodge School Secondary’s principal, Ling Kwok Huong feels would give the students a more grounded and more evolved perspective.
Even though the seminar was directed towards Form 3 students, “we hope that it can evolve to a whole school activity for the weekend,” Ling said.
There to present the brief seminar was James Lo (HfH Kuching Vice President and Public Relations), accompanied by Foo Ai Fung (HfH Kuching Family Mentoring) and a pair of volunteers from Holland here on holiday, Joyce Verschuren and Joost Craenmehr to assist with the question and answer period after the seminar.
Dependent on free manual labour from volunteers, fund-raising, donations, sponsorships and monthly instalments from the prospective homeowner themselves, the building of houses can take anywhere between 5 weeks and 4 months to complete. “It depends on the number of volunteers that we get,” Lo said, adding that 15 volunteers would be the optimum amount for one day of house-building.
When asked whether house-building was fun, Joyce, who has spent the last 2 weeks of her holiday building a HfH house in Kampong Senibong replied that there were alot of things that she didn’t know about house-building before, but now has keen knowledge and a memorable experience to take away with her when she leaves Kuching next week.
“Even if you don’t know anything about house-building, we have a very friendly Construction Supervisor, Eric Yap, on-site to assist you in any and all aspects of the build,” Lo said, stressing that no previous experience is required to volunteer for HfH.
Lo also pointed out that the HfH is not a non-profit organization, not a charity. Homeowners repay the cost price of their house (without labour charge or interest) in monthly instalments ranging from RM100-RM250 over a period of around 15 years. These instalments then go to HfH’s revolving fund which enables the organization to start building on another applicant’s house.
“While we’d love to just build a house and then give it away,” he said, “this type of charity-based system would make it difficult to regenerate income for the next house, thereby preventing Habitat from carrying out its goal of eradicating poverty housing.”
The repayment of the house at cost price of materials, moreover, gives the homeowner a sense of pride and ownership. “By giving those in poverty housing our time and energy to build a proper home, the end result goes a long way in giving these homeowners a head-start in life that they were lacking before.”
For more enquiries on Habitat for Humanity, please contact their office at 082-242700.