HFH Singapore’s Fifth Under No Roof Advocacy Event Attracts Over 200 Participants

HFH Singapore’s Fifth Under No Roof Advocacy Event Attracts Over Students Spend Night In Cardboard Shelters To Raise Awareness Of Homelessness And Poverty HousingParticipants

SINGAPORE, 8th July 2008: More than 200 people, mainly students, took part in HFH Singapore’s fifth annual Under No Roof advocacy event recently to raise awareness about the need to combat homelessness and poverty housing.

Work-in-progress: Participants building their “houses” at VivoCity mall in Singapore.

To be transformed: The 20,000 paper bricks used in the event will be recycled.

This year’s event also raised about 12,000 (US8,820) toward Habitat for Humanity’s response effort in Sichuan, China, following the devastating May earthquake.

Recent natural disasters in Myanmar and China were worked into the theme of the weekend event. In a simulation of the aftermath of a natural disaster, held in VivoCity, Singapore’s largest shopping mall, participants had to locate “missing” team members at a “hospital”, an “evacuation center” and a “refugee center”.

Later, the Under No Roof participants spent the night outside at park in western Singapore. Each team was given cardboard pieces and masking tape with which to build temporary shelters. Participants were also given the option of “buying” additional materials and working for the “money” for such purchases. Media representatives were invited to join in. A journalist from one Singapore Chinese daily newspaper observed how the student participants, who lived in an affluent nation, did not really know how to respond to a disaster.

Eighteen-year-old student Yanni Ng shared her experience with another Singapore journalist. Instead of staying in the shelter they were supposed to have constructed, Ng and her seven team mates chose to sleep in the open, using the cardboard as mats. “It was quite horrible. It rained the day before and the grass was damp,” said Ng who lives in a condominium. Her expectations were further dampened when dinner proved to plain rice, canned baked beans and sardines instead of the “hot, steaming” meal that she had been looking forward to. There was a positive note though. Despite the short experience, it gave her “a sense of how the victims felt after the disaster”, Ng said.

On the second day, participants returned to VivoCity shopping mall where they built “houses” with paper bricks and steel rods.

At the end of the two-day event, a winning team - comprising students from various schools - was selected, based on the funds they raised and points scored in various activities as well as the “house” they had built. The winning team will receive air tickets to a one-week Habitat build in China with the location to be decided later. The 20,000 paper bricks that were used will be recycled.

Ivy Tse, a 21-year-old volunteer with HFH Singapore, has been involved in the Under No Roof project since 2004. She felt that publicity was greater for the 2008 event. During the overnight camp at the park, “interns from newspapers interviewed a lot of people. This morning, the media was asking for more people to interview”. From sitting in the media interviews, she was able to hear a range of comments from participants, ranging from some who felt the “hardship” level can be stepped up to others who did not like the conditions.

An undergraduate at a local university, Tse began volunteering with Habitat when she was still a student in Victoria Junior College whose community involvement council has been helping HFH Singapore to organize the annual Under No Roof event. “The reason why I always come back (to help) is because I have a bond with the HFH Singapore staff.” She added: “I hope that the event will be able to inspire a small group. As long as one person chooses to act – donating money, go on an overseas build or become more socially aware - it is passing on the flame.”

Since 2003, Under No Roof has attracted hundreds of young people to experience homelessness and poverty housing by spending a night in cardboard shelters. In 2006, the event was combined with World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine that required participants to fast in addition to staying overnight in the makeshift structures.

VivoCity was the venue of last year’s Under No Roof event when Habitat supporters built the world’s largest paper brick house.

Registered in March 2002, Habitat for Humanity Singapore is involved in fund-raising, advocacy and organizing volunteers, along with local home improvement and safety projects. In 2006, HFH Singapore started Operation Homeworks, a home improvement and safety project that has benefited more than 150 elderly and disabled people to date with the help of nearly 1,200 volunteers.