Cleaning up for those in need

We talk to the youths behind Youth@Homeworks to find out their motivations and inspirations.

Jonathan Goh

Published: 15 April 2015, 8:24 PM

Youth.SG caught up with members of Youth@Homeworks, a volunteer project organised by Habitat for Humanity. The project aims to improve the living conditions of the elderly, the sick and the physically challenged living in one-room flats in Singapore.

Rachel, 21, a business student from SMU, is the local operations director and oversees the planning of each session of Youth@Homeworks. Emma and Shi Yi, both 19 and schooling at NUS High School, are volunteers. All three of them have found a deeper sense of fulfillment and have had no regrets.


Shi Yi, Emma and Rachel


Rachel had initially volunteered to clear her community hours required by SMU. However, over time, she began to feel more attached to the project.

“I just wanted to get it done and over with to get my hours,” she says. “But I realised that they had stories to tell and I could actually learn something from these stories. Now, every time I visit a home, I make it a point to talk to the homeowners and listen to their stories.”

Rachel now holds a role in the Campus Chapters committee as the local operations director. She plans and organises the sessions. Her tasks range from getting enough volunteers to ensuring that the volunteers have the cleaning supplies that they need.

Emma had signed up for Habitat’s overseas component, Global Village, and decided to continue her efforts by helping out in a local context. Shi Yi had volunteered when they were short on manpower, and thought the cause served a meaningful purpose.

“When you’re cleaning the houses, you get to talk to the elderly homeowners and start getting to know them on a personal level,” Shi Yi explains.


A daunting task
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Since there is only one session a month, Emma and Shi Yi have no trouble juggling their commitment to Youth@Homeworks and their studies. Rachel holds more responsibility and will sometimes face a number of problems.

“Some of [the homeowners] are a bit reluctant to ask for help… I’ll have volunteers waiting outside of the house and the homeowners still won’t open their doors. It’s hard for me to be the middle man sometimes,” she says.

Despite the challenges, Rachel is still driven to continue working with Youth@Homeworks.

“I really want to serve the homeowners and give my volunteers a good experience because I think it’s really for a good purpose,” says Rachel.

Cleaning and scrubbing homes in terrible conditions is no picnic and the mess can sometimes be a little too much. “The toilet bowl was quite packed and there were black stains everywhere.” Emma smiles as she recalls the session. “Then you scrub and then hey, it’s shiny.”

“You can see how the homeowners have been impacted by your work,” explains Emma. Shi Yi chimes in, “[if] the homeowner can’t do it, then who else will?”

The homeowners are not the only ones that benefit. The work itself fosters empathy amongst the volunteers for the elderly and disabled homeowners.

“You learn not to take simple things for granted such as being able to move around yourself,” says Emma.

When asked what can be learnt from volunteering at Youth@Homeworks, Rachel says, “I’ve learnt to be more sincere when volunteering instead of just being obligated and to just serve freely because you’ll never know how your actions can impact someone else’s life.”

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