14-year-old Diana (not her real name) lives with her family of 15 people, including her aged grandmother, five siblings and five cousins, in a two-room rented flat. Her father had been unemployed since he suffered a stroke in 2012 and the responsibility of supporting the family fell upon her mother Jennifer (not her real name) and her aunt. Living conditions were cramped and cluttered, and there was no proper study area. Diana, her siblings and cousins had to resort to studying at the dining table, on the floor inside their home and along the common corridor outside.
Diana is one of the 54 beneficiaries whose home was refurbished by the enthusiastic team of CapitaLand staff volunteers.
“We are pleased to have 200 staff volunteers taking part in CapitaLand Volunteer Day where we will help to improve the living environment in 20 homes. This is in line with our credo of ‘Building People’, where we believe that a better living environment including a conducive study area will help boost the children’s desire to learn and their confidence to realise their full potential. Ultimately, we hope that through better education of the children we could help these families break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and social exclusion,” said Mr Lim Ming Yan, President and Group CEO, CapitaLand Limited.
Spirits were high as Mr Lim flagged off 200 CapitaLand staff, for its first ever CapitaLand Volunteer Day on 15 November. It was a key event in the series of community development activities rolled out over the months of October and November to commemorate the Group’s 13th anniversary.
Through its philanthropic arm CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), CapitaLand identified 54 children beneficiaries whose homes received a “makeover”. Besides a fresh coat of paint, refurbishment work such as cleaning, improving lightings, rearranging, repairing and assembling furniture were carried out. On top of that, the children beneficiaries were presented with desks, chairs, study lighting and fans to create a more conducive study environment.
Besides funding from CHF to refurbish the homes, CapitaLand also dedicated 1,700 man-hours to CapitaLand Volunteer Day through the Volunteer Service Leave taken by staff volunteers. CapitaLand is one of the first companies in Singapore to formalise a three-day Volunteer Service Leave policy in May 2006, which allows staff to take paid leave to do volunteer work. Since then, it even expanded its leave policy to include Volunteer No Pay Leave and Volunteer Part-Time Leave.
A New Look, a Better Future
The revamp for Diana’s home meant a fresh coat of paint in her favourite green, a new fan for better air circulation, new study tables, chairs and light to create a study area, as well as storage boxes and wall shelves to keep the home organised.
Her mother Jennifer was visibly pleased with the transformation. She shared, “I’m so happy. It’s better looking now and there’re a lot of changes. There’s more space and it’s brighter. I hope that with the new study area, she can study at home more often. From the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful and thankful for the help given to us.”
Jane Teo, Administrative Executive, Project Design, Development and Management, CapitaMalls Asia was one of the volunteers assigned to Diana’s home. “Before we started cleaning, we were rather worried due to the condition of the house. The floor was cluttered with items and there were also many drawings on the walls and a lot of grease in the kitchen, so we took some time to clean them. However, at the end of the day, we all felt a strong sense of satisfaction.”
Committed Teams Working Towards a Worthy Cause
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, CapitaLand staff volunteers ploughed in much effort even before the Volunteer Day itself. Team leaders took time to visit the beneficiaries over the weekends to understand the families’ needs, so that they could customise the makeovers for each of the 20 homes. One such team leader was Ewe Kah Bun, Manager, Technology Services, CapitaLand Limited, who recalled, “After the house visit, we had a few meetings to delegate work, plan what to buy and bring, and also split up the team to take care of different areas of the house. A few of us also went shopping for the items.”
Their hard work certainly paid off. The two-room rented flat at Beo Crescent was sparkling clean and boasted a new hue of sweet pink. “We are very happy with the transformation. We have made the place much brighter and the kitchen is much cleaner than before. I am very proud of CapitaLand for providing this opportunity for us to give back to society. Furthermore, we are using our office hours to do all these,” said Ewe.
His teammate Gary Gan, Senior Manager, Business Systems, CapitaLand Limited, shared his sentiments. He said, “I think everyone should volunteer to help the less privileged. I hope the kids will do well in school and can contribute to society.”
Making Lasting Impacts
Over at Dakota Crescent, the team camaraderie was evident. Even though it was humid within the flat, everyone worked heartily. No paint stain could dampen the joy of Chew Weiting, Senior Analyst, CapitaLand Financial Limited. “It’s my first time painting a flat! Though it’s tiring, it’s very meaningful. It feels good to be part of a company that cares not just about our work, but also the people out there.”
Fellow team member Belinda Gan, Group Financial Controller, CapitaLand Limited added, “The company emphasises a lot on social responsibility and encourages us by giving us volunteer leave; otherwise it’s not possible. It doesn’t take a lot to be a volunteer; all it takes is to have some time, be prepared to do your bit to contribute to somebody’s happiness.”
Andre Lim, Vice President of Market and Strategy Insight and Corporate Planning, CapitaLand Limited, shared that the team had prepared an extra surprise for the family. “Everyone in the team contributed one foodstuff item such as biscuits. Later on, we will place it somewhere to surprise them. We hope that this surprise and the newly decorated house will bring some cheer and joy for them, especially with the festive season at the end of the year,” he said. From the looks of gratitude, the family most definitely appreciated the personal touch.
At the end of the day, CapitaLand Volunteer Day 2013 made a difference; not only for the 20 homes, but more importantly, renewed a sense of hope within the hearts of the beneficiaries and their families. After all, home is where the heart is.