What do you get when a young dad volunteers to build houses? INSIDE speaks to one who did just that, and he tells how Home goes beyond physical spaces.
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In May 2017, close to 80 of our staff volunteers from eight countries packed their bags and headed to Batangas City in the Philippines for CapitaLand’s 23rd International Volunteer Expedition. Over five days, they helped to build homes for 20 underprivileged families in CapitaLand’s first eco village in the country.
Among them was Keefe Tan, a 30-year-old dad to two young children. He sums up his experience in five lessons he hopes to share with his kids when they’re older.
1. We are different but also the same.
“While I have volunteered in other expeditions in the past, this was my first as a father. When I saw the local children, I wanted the best for them, just as I would my own children. I imagine that’s how their parents feel too. We may live in different countries and lead different lives but fundamentally, we’re really not that different.”
2. Sometimes, the process is more meaningful than the results.
“To be honest, I’ve always been sceptical about how much difference volunteers can really make in just a few days. But this [expedition] made me realise that physical progress isn’t everything. It’s probably more meaningful that we met, interacted with and inspired the local community, and showed them that a brighter future is within reach.”
3. To give is to receive.
"This may be an overused phrase, but it's true! As much as I've helped others through this expedition, I've also gained much — a different perspective of life, of the things many Singaporeans take for granted, and of my own role as a son, a husband and a father.
You can say that this experience has enriched me on a personal level."
4. Accept help when you need it but learn to help yourself too.
“As I worked alongside the villagers, I was struck by how driven they were. It was clear they wanted to build a better life for their families and they weren’t going to sit around and wait for handouts. I later learnt that this was part of the reason Gawad Kalinga, our local NGO partner, had deliberately not provided power tools. We built everything by hand, slowly but steadily, and that made it even more meaningful.”
5. A home is defined by what it's filled with, not what it's built with.
“While watching the villagers band together to build their new houses, I remember thinking that every member of the family plays a part in building a home and keeping it warm.”
"I hope my children will grow up to be filial, compassionate and selfless. And by lending a helping hand to those in need, that every volunteering experience will fill our own home with love."
The CapitaLand-Ascott Gawad Kalinga Eco Village is built with reusable wood and has environmentally-friendly features such as an organic farm and local water filtering. It is supported by CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), which contributed 3 million Philippine pesos (about S$83,000) to the initiative. Learn more about CHF here!