Individuals served in FY18: 2,420
Volunteers engaged in FY18: 3,713
- Capital: Singapore
- Main country facts: Gained independence in 1965
- Population: Over 5.6 million
- Urbanization: 100 percent live in cities
- Life expectancy: 83 years
- Unemployment rate: 1.8 percent
- Population living below poverty line: NA
Source: World Bank
Habitat for Humanity in Singapore
Habitat for Humanity Singapore began operations in response to the urgent reconstruction needs following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Since its inception, Habitat Singapore has continually mobilized volunteers under the Global Village program for building projects across the Asia-Pacific region in countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, India and more. In Singapore, the Project HomeWorks program seeks to improve the living conditions of vulnerable older persons and families living in public housing across the island. To date, more than 30,000 volunteers from Singapore have worked on over 1,300 builds in the Asia-Pacific and almost 3,000 local home improvement projects. Habitat Singapore is also involved in fundraising and advocacy initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world.
Housing needs in Singapore
Before Singapore government established the Housing & Development Board as the country’s public housing authority in 1960, only 9 percent of the population was living in low-cost public housing. Today, more than 80 percent of Singapore’s population lives in high quality HDB flats and approximately 90 percent of these residents own their flats. In 2016, the Singapore government announced that there were over 47,000 vulnerable older persons living alone. This number is likely to double to 83,000 by 2030. Living conditions can be cramped, dirty and pest-infested for the older persons, who typically reside in one-room rental flats, rely on public assistance and are physically unable to care for themselves.
How Habitat addresses the need in Singapore
The Project HomeWorks program was conceived to improve the living conditions of vulnerable groups such as older people and those with illnesses or with disabilities living in public rental flats all over the island. Volunteers are mobilized to clean up homes, make minor repairs and ensure facilities meet safety standards. Since 2006, more than 15,000 volunteers have participated in almost 3,000 home improvement sessions. In addition, Habitat Singapore raises awareness of the need to eliminate substandard housing through high-profile events such as Home Sweep Home and LitteRally.
Habitat Singapore has partnered with several corporations, charitable foundations and non-governmental organizations. Singapore-based celebrities such as Paul Foster, Eunice Olsen, Corrinne May and Anita Kapoor lend their support as Habitat Singapore’s ambassadors. Members of campus chapters, a few of which have been established in local tertiary institutions, also volunteer, raise funds and advocate for Habitat.
International volunteer builds
Teams of volunteers from Singapore are regularly sent on Habitat’s Global Village trips to build homes in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world. To date, Habitat Singapore has mobilized more than 14,000 volunteers who took part in more than 1,300 building projects. Popular destinations include Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Due to its close proximity, Habitat Singapore has embarked on sustained developmental projects in Indonesia’s Batam island.
The Project HomeWorks program was launched in 2006 in order to improve the living conditions of older people and low-income families living in public rental housing across the island. Volunteers dedicate a full day to cleaning and refurbishing and making minor repairs to these homes to make them safe and healthy. Since 2006, close to 3,000 HomeWorks sessions have been conducted. Through UnLitter Red Dot – a common nickname for the island state – Habitat Singapore aims to create a society that is caring, civic-minded and considerate. After picking up trash, student volunteers shared their experiences and lessons learned in conversations that promote caring about the living space beyond the confines of their own homes.
Annual volunteer and advocacy events
Home Sweep Home
Once a year, Habitat Singapore mobilizes volunteers for a large-scale event that combines home-cleaning and communal litter-picking projects on a single day across several neighborhoods in the country. Launched in 2017, the event attracted an average of 1,000 volunteers. Corporate donors contributed about S$300,000 (over US$221,000) to the program that also received widespread coverage in local media. In 2018, the event expanded to six neighborhoods instead of three in the previous year.
In 2019, Habitat Singapore organized its first-ever mass community clean-up event, LitteRally. About 650 volunteers came together to pick up 300 kilograms of litter from four neighborhoods. The family-friendly activity took participants through 10 curated routes to pick litter on the go while learning about how to keep Singapore clean.
Meet a Habitat family
Vulnerability is not a state that anyone crosses into overnight; it starts slow. When Madam Chow, 77, was younger, she was able to juggle a job with caring for her daughter May Leng, 54, who was born with cerebral palsy. As Madam Chow ages, she started having hip problems that make it difficult for her to tidy up her home. In November 2018, Project HomeWorks volunteers worked with them to unclutter and clean up their bedroom that had become a storeroom over the years. Both mother and daughter could finally sleep on their own beds after years of sharing a small sofa at night. “It’s because (Habitat) helped me then. Now that I have my personal space back, I can sleep better,” said Madam Chow.