Be An Idea's first Batam Build

Photo Credit: Alynn Teo

Photo Credit: Alynn Teo

On June 9, Be An Idea sent a volunteer team to the Indonesian island of Batam to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity’s mission to provide affordable housing for locals as well as support our personal mission to build thriving communities. The 6-strong team, led by founder Nadim van der Ros, was made up of Be An Idea team members and volunteers from our extended network.

Setting off from the Singapore Cruise Centre at Harbourfront, the team took the short hour-long ferry trip to Batam, accompanied by perfect house-building weather – an overcast sky to protect us from the strong Indonesian sun. After successfully navigating the strict immigration controls at Batam, we were greeted by the local Habitat for Humanity co-ordinator, Eric, who took us on a short drive to the small village of Kabil where 40% of families live in sub-standard houses.

Habitat for Humanity views the people they build houses for not so much as beneficiaries but as partners. This idea is central to how the programme and the organisation operates – the houses built are not an act of charity but rather co-built alongside the future homeowners, who contribute “sweat equity” into the house.

After a short safety briefing and an introduction to the homeowner with whom we were partnering, we were divided into two teams to help with the two tasks that needed doing that day: building beams for the roof and clearing rubble from the interior of the house. For those assigned to building beams, the task provided a nice and easy introduction to building houses, lacing iron rods to square rings with wire. However, for those assigned to clearing the rubble inside the house, it truly was a baptism by fire as they came face-to-face with the reality of the hard labour required in construction.

“While the tasks were simple, they did give us an appreciation of the backbreaking work it takes to build affordable homes that many take for granted,” says Jennifer Kwek, Be An Idea’s team leader for the trip. “The sun decided to make its showing after lunch, which only added to the intensity of working physically in the heat.”

Photo Credit: Alynn Teo

Photo Credit: Alynn Teo

As the trip was a one-day build, the volunteer team’s work day finished at 3pm. Each volunteer then had the opportunity to share what the work meant for them, followed by the homeowner partner sharing his thoughts on the team’s work.

“The work was a humbling experience,” says Nadim, Be An Idea’s founder. “I feel like we definitely experienced the light version of building houses. While we get to go home after a day, the homeowner will still be building his house for months after we’re gone. Thankfully, Habitat for Humanity is there to help assist him.”

While the physically demanding task of building these houses is typically undertaken by local men, Be An Idea’s volunteer team was made up exclusively of women, with the exception of Nadim who was the only male volunteer. This was not lost on him or, he believes, on the homeowner.

“In my experience, women tend to be the trailblazers when it come to engaging with charities and volunteering their time and energy to great causes. I think that, at the start of the day, the homeowner was probably wondering what this team of mostly women could possibly do to help him build his house,” Nadim laughs. “By the end of the day, I think he saw what their stamina and hard work could achieve, and his opinion changed.”

Photo Credit: Alynn Teo

Photo Credit: Alynn Teo

Even as the Be An Idea volunteer team bid farewell to Batam on the sunset voyage home, the work of Habitat for Humanity continues as they tirelessly endeavour to provide affordable housing to locals and ensure that communities continue to thrive.

If you’re keen to join a Be An Idea team for possible future builds, please let us know by filling in the form below. You can also experience a building project by directly contacting Habitat for Humanity. Finally, you can choose to support this fantastic project directly by donating here (all funds go directly to the charity): https://habitat.give.asia/campaign/building_thriving_communities_one_brick_at_a_time