Causes Week 2014: They spread joy by giving messy homes a makeover

Some of Helping Joy's volunteers (from left) Roy Yuan, 32, Irene Soon, 36, Steven Goh, 36, Amy Tay, 44, and Nelson Ong, 40. Mr Goh founded the group with friends in 2012, and it now has about 20 regular volunteers. On Sunday, the group will be giving
Some of Helping Joy's volunteers (from left) Roy Yuan, 32, Irene Soon, 36, Steven Goh, 36, Amy Tay, 44, and Nelson Ong, 40. Mr Goh founded the group with friends in 2012, and it now has about 20 regular volunteers. On Sunday, the group will be giving Mr Tan Soy Yong's three-room flat a makeover. Mr Tan (below) made the news in October when he was covered in faeces in public and a good Samaritan helped clean him up.PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN, ST FILE
Some of Helping Joy's volunteers (from left) Roy Yuan, 32, Irene Soon, 36, Steven Goh, 36, Amy Tay, 44, and Nelson Ong, 40. Mr Goh founded the group with friends in 2012, and it now has about 20 regular volunteers. On Sunday, the group will be giving
Some of Helping Joy's volunteers (from left) Roy Yuan, 32, Irene Soon, 36, Steven Goh, 36, Amy Tay, 44, and Nelson Ong, 40. Mr Goh founded the group with friends in 2012, and it now has about 20 regular volunteers. On Sunday, the group will be giving Mr Tan Soy Yong's three-room flat a makeover. Mr Tan (below) made the news in October when he was covered in faeces in public and a good Samaritan helped clean him up.PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN, ST FILE

Helping Joy volunteers help to clean and paint homes of low-income families

Mr Tan Soy Yong, who was cleaned up by a good Samaritan after being found covered in faeces in public in October, will soon have his house cleaned up too.

Helping Joy, an informal group of volunteers which helps to clean and paint the homes of low-income families, will give Mr Tan's three-room flat a makeover on Sunday.

It will be the largest project for the two-year-old group, which cleans a one-room or two-room flat once a month.

When asked if the home makeover for Mr Tan, a 76-year-old former cleaner, would be the group's most challenging one to date, founder Steven Goh pursed his lips and nodded.

 

The 36-year-old financial planner told The Straits Times: "It will be quite a tedious cleanup, a big project."

Its longest cleanup operation for a smaller flat already took 11 hours, and a makeover of Mr Tan's three-room flat could take longer. Depending on the flat size, each home makeover usually involves up to 20 volunteers - a cap set by the group to avoid a situation in which "the volunteers take up more space than the stuff".

It is rare for informal groups of people to do major makeovers of people's homes. Some companies and family service centres do them, but typically on an ad-hoc basis.

The group, set up by six friends in 2012, now boasts about 20 regular volunteers. "It started with a casual discussion with my friends, and one day, we thought of how we can step up to help the needy, within our limited resources," said Mr Goh.

He liaises with family service centres and social workers to identify homes which need the group's help.

Mr Goh said: "Some people help by giving donations, some help through volunteer work. For me, I find that if you help in a hands-on manner, the experience is different and you can become a changed person after that."

Those who joined the group later found out about Helping Joy through friends or Facebook.

Public servant Nelson Ong, 40, came across the group in 2012 when he searched for "help" - literally - on Facebook.

"Other volunteer groups' membership numbers are already very big. I thought I might as well join a new group, to help it succeed in serving the needy," he said.

Another volunteer, financial service manager Roy Yuan, 32, added: "This is something that anybody can help with, whether you're poor or rich."

There is no shortage of the horror stories - taking three hours to move out stacks of books which were piled up from floor to ceiling, cleaning cupboards with inches of dust, and wiping fridges full of pungent smells - but the volunteers said they feel a sense of joy when they help and see the smiles on people's faces.

Ms Noriza A. Mansoor, whose good deed of helping to clean up Mr Tan was highlighted in the news in October, is looking forward to the makeover of his home.

The 49-year-old sales promoter plans to take Mr Tan and his wife on an outing while the makeover is being done, so they can be surprised later.

"I can't wait for that day. I think they will have a beautiful Chinese New Year too," she said.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/helpingjoy