ST Causes Week 2019: Couple helps the needy spruce up their homes

Mr Hsu Hsia Pin plans to register the Neighbours for Life initiative as a social enterprise. He is liaising with family service centres to identify more cases of families who need renovation help.
Mr Hsu Hsia Pin plans to register the Neighbours for Life initiative as a social enterprise. He is liaising with family service centres to identify more cases of families who need renovation help. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Architects Hsu Hsia Pin and Eunice Khoo are putting their design skills to good use by helping underprivileged families renovate their homes for free.

The husband-and-wife team have been working with their network of suppliers and contractors to spruce up run-down spaces that they know can take a toll on people over time.

Mr Hsu, 41, said: "A home is not just a shelter over your head. When your home is totally out of order, cluttered and messy, it can be stressful living there."

The initiative, called Neighbours for Life, is partly inspired by local television series RenovAID. It completed its first mission in October with the help of sponsors and donations through social media.

The beneficiary family has five children and lives in a one-room flat in Bedok, with the father bringing home about $400 to $500 a month working odd jobs as a cleaner.

Ikea provided the family with new furniture such as a bed frame, a wardrobe, a sofa set, a coffee table, a TV console and cabinets.

Renovation contractor Poshtree spruced up the flat's walls and old cabinets with fresh paint, while EB Craftsmen handled the carpentry and electrical work. New ceiling lights and bed furnishings were given by retail companies.

Mr Hsu, co-founder of Ehka Studio, an architectural practice he runs with his wife, said he did not expect to get such an overwhelming response from strangers and organisations wanting to help.

In September, they set up a Facebook page providing updates and calling for donations of household items when necessary.

"There were so many offers and we even had to stop (collecting) donations," Mr Hsu said.

Neighbours for Life remains a ground-up group, but he plans to register it as a social enterprise in the future. He is now liaising with family service centres to identify more cases of families who need renovation help.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2019, with the headline Couple helps the needy spruce up their homes. Subscribe