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Habitat for Humanity Singapore’s Under No Roof Event Takes on New Dimension

700 students fasted and learnt about poverty housing in combined Habitat/World Vision camp

SINGAPORE, 13th July 2006: Learning about poverty housing and homeless took a new twist in the fourth year of Habitat for Humanity Singapore’s Under No Roof program. More precisely, it was hunger pangs as about 700 students took part in the first ever combined 30 Hour Famine/Under No Roof event in Singapore.

Keep going: more than 10,000 paper cranes were folded, meaning an equivalent number of bowls of rice will be donated to the needy in Singapore.

Take cover: one group gamely staying in their shelter…until night fell

Hands up: students putting up their shelter for the night, using materials such as plastic sheets and chairs

Jointly organized by HFH Singapore and World Vision Singapore, the two-day event included a simulated disaster scenario as well as presentations on poverty housing, famine and HIV/Aids.

The event opened at St Andrews Junior College with speeches by Amy Lee, chairman of HFH Singapore’s board, Sim Cher Young, executive director of World Vision Singapore, and Amy Khor, senior parliamentary secretary for environment and water resources.

Later, amid loud sirens, participants dispersed to search for missing “family members”. Some students also came closer to understanding the social stigma faced by HIV/Aids patients when they had to wear placards declaring they were victims.

“Reunited” families had to earn token money to buy construction materials for building their shelters. From bean sorting to bead picking to even prostitution, the families had several income-generating choices but not all chose legal means.

With the token money earned, the families could then buy the materials needed to build their shelters, in most cases comprising plastic sheets, cardboard, tables and chairs.

From 2pm onwards, the students started abstaining from food though they could consume fluids and glucose drinks. The fast lasted 30 hours till 8pm the next day. The night was spent reflecting on the lessons they learnt through the disaster simulation scenario and various presentations.

Some nimble fingers were also spotted folding paper cranes. A local rice company partnered with the organizers to donate a bowl of rice to the needy in Singapore for every crane folded. At the end of the event, the students as well as the volunteers had folded a total of 10,886 cranes.

The second day’s activities included a collection of old newspapers from the nearby town of Tampines. The proceeds of over S$8,000 would help meet the needs of street children in Cambodia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam as well as support relief efforts for the drought affecting Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. 

The event ended with a concert featuring singer Joi Chua and Eunice Olsen, an active volunteer who was a former nominated member of parliament. After more than a day of fasting, the participants could finally have their first taste of food.

Some students such as Nurul were left with deep impressions. Her comments in a World Vision blog were: “I’ve left the camp with a drive to do my own small part to help, both in reducing hunger and poverty in impoverished nations, and also in increasing awareness of Aids where the information is needed most.”

HFH Singapore’s Hosea Lai said: “Through this combined event, we want to drive home the message that shelter and food are real struggles for some people. More importantly, we hope that people will be moved and motivated to help anyone who has a need, not just in Singapore but in other parts of the world as well.”