September 9, 2020
Words by: Valerie Kor

(Photo Above) The Keeping Hope Alive team come prepared with new goods, such as mattresses, for residents at blocks 89 and 90 Redhill CloseJOE NAIR

A home is a basic need to most of us, but a luxury to some. Still others, especially the low-income and elderly, lack the ability to keep their own quarters clean and safe. Young children who are separated from mothers serving a prison sentence also need a home to grow up in. 

Knowing these needs, 3 charities and their volunteers are doing their part to meet needs. Covid-19 may have complicated their operations, but they are innovating to seek out the help they need. 

Here’s what they do: 

Ms June Chua, 47, founder of Singapore’s first and only homeless shelter for transgender (trans) women, cares for the small and often marginalised transgender and transgender sex worker community in Singapore. The T Project shelter has become a haven where they receive support and daily necessities until they regain independence.

(Above) Ms June Chua, 47, founder of Singapore’s first and only homeless shelter for transgender (trans) women, cares for the small and often marginalised transgender and transgender sex worker community in Singapore. The T Project shelter has become a haven where they receive support and daily necessities until they regain independenceCAROLINE CHIA

During the Covid-19 pandemic, incomes were cut for many individuals, not least of them transgendered sex workers. Worse, many of them do not own a bank account, and are not able to receive government aid easily. To help the most vulnerable within the community, Singapore’s first and only homeless shelter for transgender women The T Project started to distribute food rations and care packages to the elderly transgender community

The shelter was set up by June Chua and her sister in 2014. Having first established the first T Project shelter in an old shophouse in Little India, Ms Chua later upgraded the space to a shelter in the heart of Geylang, which can accommodate up to six residents — rent-free, for a maximum of six months. 

Ms Chua receives private donations and funding from organisations such as the Temasek Trust’s Oscar@sg fund. With that support, she has been able to add more beds to the shelter as well as hire a part-time staff.

How you can help: Donate to or volunteer with The T Project, or purchase photo book ‘Our Blood Runs Red Like Yours’ to support their fundraising efforts

With a drop in corporate volunteer engagements, Habitat for Humanity seeks support in finding regular Project HomeWorks volunteers to serve the elderly & low-income families in need of clean and safe homes. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

(Above) Ruzaini Syazwan, 29, started the Umbrella Initiative, a project that provides meals for the needy and homeless. The full-time nursing student started out delivering the food on his own, but the project has since expanded to a 9-person team. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

Covid-19 meant that Habitat for Humanity Singapore had to suspend their volunteering activities. Yet, cases of low-income individuals and elderly living in squalid conditions don’t disappear. Individuals who do not have much money or social support, or suffer from mobility issues, may end up with cluttered and bug-infested homes over time. 

Project HomeWorks, Habitat Singapore’s local volunteer programme, organises sessions to clean homes. They discard expired food items, throw out pest-infected items, and remove things from common passageways that could cause falls or become a fire hazard. So far, the project has served 3,302 vulnerable elderly, persons with disabilities and low-income families.  

With fewer volunteers and donations, Project HomeWorks had to take their fundraising campaigns online. Habitat is seeking out regular volunteers and those with skills to organise online fundraising campaigns and create digital content. These steps allow them to comply with social distancing rules and rally for donations in the digital realm.


How you can help: Become a regular volunteer or donate to Project HomeWorks

Ms Noraishikin Ismail, manager of SACA’s Volunteer After-care Programme, works with staff and volunteers to conduct home visits that focus on the living conditions of children whose mothers are serving sentences at Institution A4 (formerly Changi Women’s Prison), as well as how they interact with other members in their household. SACA has, for more than a decade, run its Initiative for Incarcerated Mothers and Affected Children (IIMAC), through which social workers such as Ms Noraishikin are able to help imprisoned mothers with the care of their children.

(Above) Ms Noraishikin Ismail, manager of SACA’s Volunteer After-care Programme, works with staff and volunteers to conduct home visits that focus on the living conditions of children whose mothers are serving sentences at Institution A4 (formerly Changi Women’s Prison), as well as how they interact with other members in their household. SACA has, for more than a decade, run its Initiative for Incarcerated Mothers and Affected Children (IIMAC), through which social workers such as Ms Noraishikin are able to help imprisoned mothers with the care of their children. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

Children of incarcerated mothers, who have to live in their grandparents’ or relatives’ homes, may fall through the cracks. Without a mother figure to care for their needs, these children are often left in the hands of families. Some may be ill-equipped to cope with their care. 

To ensure safe abodes for these children, the Incarcerated Mothers and Affected Children (IIMAC) conducts home visits to the children to check on their welfare. IIMAC will see if the children are doing well under the current car arrangements and also remain accountable to the mothers, who are serving their time. 

If they encounter dire situations, they will reach out to the appropriate agencies. While during the circuit breaker, they were not allowed to carry out their visits, they can now do so. 

Singapore After-Care Association (SACA) has operated the initiative for over a decade. They are now looking for web designers and companies who can offer a good CRM system.

How you can help: Volunteer by befriending ex-offenders or visit children of incarcerated mothers. You can also donate to SACA’s cause

Shelter is a basic need. But many of us can be far removed for such communities to see that there are people who are living in substandard home environments, or simply need a roof over their head. Lend a hand to the above charities or donate if you have the means.

 


The Storytellers

  • Bryan is still trying to figure a way to combine his three main loves. Can anyone help him figure out how to balance his whole family on a motorbike while riding and taking photographs?

  • Caroline loves photography and trekking, and never turns down a trip to the mountains.

  • Joe tells stories and lets his mind wonder about possibilities. The truth is that he just ends up wandering mindlessly which is not much of a story.

  • Valerie spends two-thirds of her waking hours writing stories and the remaining with her toddler, husband, cats and bicycle.

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