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Monday, December 19, 2011

Building Homes, an experience being a foreign construction worker.

While you were probably nursing a hangover on Saturday, i was up at 5.30am to ride on Asean Raider to Batam. Batam often frequented by Singaporeans for the food, sex and shopping neglect to realise there are poverty stricken suburbs. With extremely poor hygiene conditions, you can find any kind of thrash imaginable littered in every nook and cranny, some which isn't even ashamed to be in the middle of the street.

Habitat for Humanity builds, rehabilitates and repairs homes like these. I heard that if the Indonesian family earns less than 3 million rupiah (that's SGD 400) a month, they get help from Habitat.
We arrived at the work site where we see a sparse quarter with the skeletal frame done by previous volunteers.
Local professionals equipped us with the tools, gave instructions and soon we start cracking!
Everyone was enthusiastic about laying bricks. Perhaps that was the most obvious when you think about building a house. Little did we know we first must shove and even the ground. That first step takes the most sweat as well as breath.
Then, metal wires are bent this way and that to form metal squares which has then gets tired around the pillar structures.
It looks simple but it's still exhausting nonetheless. A lot of bending over, a lot of wrist strength and arm power. Once the ground has been even, my friends enthusiastically started laying the bricks. I think its the most "fun" because they get to play out as The 3rd Pig who builds a brick house that can't be huffed and puffed away.
After 1 hour of twisting metals, shoving ground, mixing cement, we all realised one thing... we did take the foreign workers for granted. The ones who toil under the hot sun, the ones who eat nothing but curry sauce and rice. 

After 2 hours, we were FAMISHED from the labour. It wasn't even close to lunch time.

 Lunch came and i really don't want to complain, but this meal made me count my blessings further. Imagine if we had this much variety yet it still doesn't taste edible, then imagine the villagers who may not even have enough..

The man on the extreme left was the to-be home owner. He gave a speech of thanks when it was time for us to leave.

 This was the shack next door.
This is the toilet.
Looking at the children and the way they live struck upon me that poverty is not a choice.
 Chicken and her brood went around pecking non stop.
The girls are playing masak masak. The older girl was chopping grass and playing cook with the other children. I know my friend's 5 year old daughter wished for an iPad this Christmas and daddy's going to get her one because her Pre School is using it and all her fellow 5 year old friends have one.

Just like the African kids you see on documentaries, it's real that these kids do not swat flies away even though they land on their face.

 Posing with the bad boy look.

 I went into another depilated house when it rained to take shelter, and i came across a broken LV mattress. I don't know why but i instinctively looked for strewn condoms, but i found none. Then i thought in impoverished countries like these, they probably do not use birth control or protection and thus the society problems sometimes.
 I look like some kind of killer here, with that heavy weapon and gloves. Do you see the perspiration rolling down my forehead and collarbone?
I spotted a tricycle stored away beyond reach of children. Perhaps it's a treat for when they are well-behaved.
After 6 hours of work, we managed to put up partitions for the bedrooms. Right on track!
When i was younger, my mum always compares us to other children. When we were young, XX is a better child, XX has better grades. Now, it is with a different agenda. XX married so well, XX got such a high rank etc. Truthfully, i do know i ain't the perfect child and i think it's a cause-and-effect theory. I am born into a blessed fortunate complete family, i am sheltered from the "tough life". That makes me not any more hardworking than the boy from a low income earning father because i felt there's no need to be a high flier because my Daddy provides for me.

The kids born in an impoverished situation, they are surprisingly very mature at a very young age! 
This boy is probably 3. We sat on his porch and ate our lunch. He probably got upset that we messed up his porch so after we got back to work, he started cleaning.
It dawned upon me that doing good benefits the doer, perhaps more than the receiver. Are we really doing good work without motive? Or was there a subconscious need to selfishly feel good? It is innate in humans to think of one's self first.

Like the mayor who plants a tree, a gesture rather than real work, is volunteer work a facade? What we did probably helped with a day's work, but we are definitely far from completion. While we made a mental note to return and complete, honestly i don't know when that'll happen. It was an unanimous sigh of relief when transport came to take us back. When we reach a proper toilet at the ferry terminal, our faces beamed at the sight of it. Oh, our creatures comfort, so badly missed (mere 5 hours).

But i do know that my purpose in life is to touch lives, and it matters to see them smile.
And when they do, it's an out-of-the-world feeling.

For interesting reads on the life of migrant workers, check out here

"Migrant worker is the synonym of low-quality in the society. I admit that we are the people living in the lowest level of the society. Even if we were paid attention to, we were seen as the weakest group.
But now I do not feel worthless anymore, in fact we the migrant workers are also human beings, we are proud, all of the high-rise buildings are built up with our blood and sweat; we also are educated, I can write posts; we also know how to live......
We live in the shack at night, chatting and masturbation is our only activity....."
 and here

"I asked him if he always eat out at night. “No, I cannot afford to eat out everyday! Today I delivered more, rarely come out to eat, normally I eat at home.” I asked him how much he spends each month. He told me, mainly is rent and food, almost no other spending. He kept a tab on everyday spending, about 800 yuan a month. He mails the rest of money home. “My daughter was accepted into a university, she is the first college student of our family!” Then he smiled, a sweet smile..."


Karyn Dowty said...

Castles! Oh my, I have not learn your lessons from this project.

Shyanne Browning said...

very proud of you! x

Bose said...

Great execution, Enjoyed every bit!@bose
Construction Worker Job Duties

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