Project Date: 9th – 17th Nov 2013
Number of people benefited: 1 family
Number of volunteers: 12
How many of us have had experienced not having a roof over our head and due to poverty had to build a shelter with our own bare hands, with whatever materials we could scour and find?
That was what Mdm Chaw Choon Kee, 47, had to resort to after being abandoned by her abusive husband and left to fend for herself and her two children, aged 15 and 13, in Kampung Sematan, near the town of Bau, Sarawak.
Approximately sized at a mere 100 square feet, the ramshackle hut housed a sleeping area adjacent to the makeshift kitchen with the toilet just outside the structure, protected from the external elements by a plastic tarp. There were gaps in the atap roof and the floor was lined with planks, right on top of muddy soil. Whenever it rained, mother and children would be drenched. The structure looked like it could collapse anytime.
It was unimaginable to think a family of three could live in such a condition, what more for over six years.
Mdm Chaw’s application to the authorities for the Housing Assistance Programme three years ago was rejected on the basis that assistance was already provided to her while she was still with her husband. What the authorities failed to see was that Mdm Chaw has no intention of returning to her abusive husband, and this left her with no other choice but to rely on her own to provide for her and her children.
In order to make ends meet, she collects oil palm kernels. At 15 cents a kilogram, this generates a meager amount of less than RM20 a day, and work is only available during harvesting season. She barely has enough to put food on the table for her children, what more acquire materials to build a proper house.
With the help of DAP members in Sematan and concerned members of the community there, Mdm Chaw’s plight was brought to the attention of Tasik Biru DAP chief Mordi Bimol. Mordi quickly mobilized help in the form of a press conference to highlight Mdm Chaw’s situation. Contributions started pouring in and the community banded together to help in various ways; manual labour, cost of construction and sponsoring of building materials to name a few. Impian Sarawak, with volunteers from all over Malaysia worked together with the locals to make this dream of enabling Mdm Chaw to have a house to call her own a reality.