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HFH Singapore To Mobilize 300 Volunteers For New “Operation Homeworks” Project To Improve Home Safety For The Elderly

On your mark: Cleaning equipment all lined up for the pilot Operation Homeworks in September 2006.

Second Project Follows Successful Singapore Pilot And Pioneering Scheme In Hong Kong

SINGAPORE, 9th January 2007: Four months after a successful pilot project to improve the conditions of elderly people’s homes, Habitat for Humanity Singapore is embarking on a second Operation Homeworks next month.

On 3rd February, HFH Singapore will mobilize about 300 volunteers to clean up 47 homes for elderly residents. Aged between 59 and 88, these residents mostly live on their own in one-room apartments in a public housing estate in Geylang Bahru, in the eastern part of Singapore.

The second project is jointly organized with TOUCH Seniors Activity Centre, part of the Singapore-based non-profit charitable organization TOUCH Community Services. Since 1992, TOUCH has been providing community-based services for the needy and the disadvantaged through 17 centers in Singapore. It is also involved in overseas projects including community development and humanitarian relief.

Operation Homeworks will see important improvements in the quality of the residents’ lives. The volunteers will make the premises safer by trunking loose wiring and repairing toilets. Bug infested beds will be changed and unwanted clutter removed.

What the volunteers will be doing is akin to what was completed in the pilot Operation Homeworks in Bukit Merah, central Singapore, in September last year. Led by HFH Singapore patron S Dhanabalan, some 300 volunteers converged at two blocks of one-room apartments. The volunteers, including staff of Citigroup, Timberland and Ikea, cleaned up the apartments, painted doors and grilles, replaced damaged furniture as well as removed bed bugs, among other tasks.

The pilot Operation Homeworks was a joint project with Presbyterian Community Services and Central Singapore Community Development Council.After the pilot project ended, HFH Singapore’s national director Yong Teck Meng expressed the hope that Operation Homeworks can be a long-running project and extended to other areas in Singapore. Yong said then: “The need for a decent place to live is universal in any part of the world, even in a place like Singapore (where poverty housing is virtually unheard of). We’re happy that our volunteers understand and support Habitat’s cause.”Singapore has an extensive public housing system so there are no opportunities for building “traditional” Habitat for Humanity homes with homepartners.

Over in Hong Kong, HFH China is no stranger to the Homeworks idea, given its experiences in two similar programs. In April 2006, HFH China launched a home safety and improvement program to repair 50 run-down apartments for elderly people in Hong Kong. The target was exceeded four months later when a total of 69 apartments for the elderly were repaired in Lower Ngau Tau Kok estate, near to Kowloon Bay.

Gateway to happiness: a senior resident (left) with a worker who helped to install a new door grille in HFH China’s Home Improvement and Safety Project in Aberdeen, Hong Kong

HFH China’s partner was the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Hong Kong Anglican Church (Episcopal) whose community development center in Ngau Tau Kok implemented the project.

Lower Ngau Tau Kok is an old public rental housing estate with more than 37 years’ history and over one-third of its 4,000 residents are the elderly people who live alone.

The work done included plumbing and electrical jobs carried out by skilled technicians.

After completing the Ngau Tau Kok project, HFH China went on to repair the homes and improve the safety of another 40 elderly residents in the aging Wah Fu public housing estate in Aberdeen on the southern part of Hong Kong Island. HFH China partnered with the non-profit Aberdeen Kai-fong Welfare Association Social Service Centrein this project.

Works completed included fixing of peeling ceiling paint, repairs of rickety windows, replacement of faulty sockets, installation of hand rails and new door grilles. The Aberdeen project was completed in December 2006.

In addition to improving the home environment of the elderly, the repairs helped to prevent accidents in the home. Studies conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that 46 per cent of the elderly folks’ fall-related injuries happened while they were at home. The injuries were mostly caused by improper fittings and lack of safety measures in the home environment