A teacher’s heart for her student leads to a home makeover for a family of 12.
By Theresa Tan
What began as concern for her student’s continual absence from school led teacher Faith Denning to investigate the true story behind the child’s behavior.
“She would tell me, ‘We haven’t done the laundry for months, I cannot find my uniform,’” described Denning. “She would not come to school for days because her MRT card had not been topped up. When the school counselor and I finally showed up at her home to talk to her mother, we were not allowed in the house and had to hold a parent-teacher meeting in the corridor.”
Early this year, Denning’s student approached her for help. Her mother was pregnant with her ninth child and could not cope.
Denning and two church friends showed up at the four-room flat. It had not been cleaned for 10 years. Six large bags of unwashed laundry took up a quarter of the living room. The bedrooms smelled of cat urine, and dirty clothes were strewn all over the floor. The kitchen was wet with urine and had no working lights. It was unthinkable that young children had to eat, sleep and do their homework in a home like this. The team knew something had to be done immediately.
A GOD-APPOINTED TIME
At the same time, furniture company V.Hive had approached the Business Breakthrough Group, a gathering of Christian business people and executives in City Harvest Church under the pastoral oversight of Goh Yock Kiang and Chew Eng Han, to propose the donation of furniture to needy families.
Denning and her friends, being part of BBG, were buoyed by this donation. With the help of two groups from BBG and Kelvin Low, the humanitarian project manager from Imagine TV Network who headed the “BBG Extreme Makeover” project, Denning began to plan the home clean-up over a period of two weeks.
There were other urgent needs such as beds and mattresses which were too costly for the groups to purchase. A team member shared the story on Facebook, listing out the items and costs. Miraculously, within a 13-hour period, every item on the list amounting to over S$5,000 was fully sponsored by kind friends!
“God was with us every step of the way,” said Kevin Ng, cell group leader of BBG205. “He gave me a verse from Matthew 25 which I shared with our group, ‘Whatever you do unto the least of these … you do unto Me.’ We were prepared to do this home makeover unto God. This family mattered to Him.”
For the two groups, BBG205 and BBG210, the five-day home makeover project was a true challenge. To help the family clear the space for the washing and painting, a team of three women went to start sorting out unwanted clothing.
There were over 300 kg of loose, dirty laundry to contend with, some of it covered in maggots. There were boxes of mixed up items, some rusty, some mouldy. Expired food filled the cupboards, covered with spider webs and insect droppings. Cat urine and faeces stained the walls and floor behind the wardrobes. Cockroaches were found in every corner of every cupboard and drawer. For many in the group, these were sights and smells never before encountered.
Yet, every person on the makeover team put in their all—some had eczema and allergies, others had respiratory issues but they set aside every excuse to complete the job. Those with young children arranged for childcare throughout the weekend.
“I am so proud of my members,” said Julie Goh, who leads BBG210 with her husband Christopher Pang. “Many of them are in property, yet they gave up their weekend, which is peak time for property agents, to do this makeover.”
“The total tonnage of what needed to be done would have ordinarily crushed a herd of elephants,” quipped Ng. “Yet the team had a never–give-up attitude, and they did it in five days. And God sent the right people to help at exactly the right time.”
“Angels”, as Low called them, appeared to help at crisis moments. It was impossible to keep the 300 kg of dirty laundry in the house, so Denning and the daughters sifted out more items to be thrown. They had bagged about 150 kg of unwanted clothing and were trying to figure out how to dispose of the trash bags when Low heard the sweet sound of a horn—a karang guni (rag-and-bone) man miraculously appeared, and proceeded to buy up all the bags of old and dirty clothes.
“The best part was, the karang guni man gave the family S$60 for the clothes, so they were very happy,” said Low.
The washing and folding of 24 bags of the remaining dirty laundry was fully sponsored by For The Love Of Laundry, a laundry company. New Charis Mission pitched in to provide delivery of the donated furniture.
A neighbor who was not on good terms with the family, watched the team try to sand the front door down to fit it back into the door frame, and offered not only his professional electric sander but his services as well! He commented, “If not for you all helping them, I would never step into their house.”
The painters did the job at cost price—one even brought his teenage daughter to help with the cleaning. Even the delivery men who saw it was an act of love for the needy, reduced their delivery fee from S$55 to S$15!
A BRAND NEW DAY
With rooms cleared out and painted, infested furniture and spoilt appliances removed, toilets fixed and cleaned, lights repaired, the four-room flat was unrecognizable to anyone who had seen the house before the makeover.
The final touch was the furniture. V.Hive’s fresh white wardrobes arrived, along with four new dining chairs that accompanied the family’s cleaned-up marble table. A new TV console became the centerpiece of the living room.
A donated queen size bed replaced the bug-infested master room mattress. A large donated couch replaced a broken down settee. Two bunk beds were installed in the girls’ room and one in the boys’ room.
The children were thrilled by their new beds, and even pitched in to fit the bedsheets and pillowcases.
By the end of the makeover, the little ones were so used to seeing the team members’ faces that they asked them to “come back tomorrow la!”
This makeover proved a strong start to the BBG Extreme Makeover project, demonstrating the power of God when willing hearts and hands do His bidding. Other groups now have an example to follow in upcoming makeover sessions this year.
Following up are social workers from City Harvest Community Services Association, so that there is a helpline available when the family needs it.
“I felt that our two groups really bonded,” commented Richard Yim, a team member. “Now we know each other much better.”
Ng noted, “God’s light really shone through every member. I thank God for everyone who made this happen, and for the successful completion of the project!”