Halfway house programme brings Christmas cheer to rental flat resident

(From right) Mr Mohamad Faizal Abas, the head of Jamiyah Halfway House, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin and retiree Victor Louis De Foe singing Christmas carols with members from the Eurasian community in Mr De Foe’s rental flat in Woodlands. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Retiree Victor Louis De Foe, 73, a Christian, rarely decorates his home for Christmas.

But his one-room rental flat in Woodlands is looking a lot more festive this year, thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the Jamiyah Halfway House.

As part of Project Happiness, a programme that aims to bring cheer to needy Singaporeans during festive seasons, the volunteers gave his home a fresh coat of paint in blue - his favourite colour - and installed new appliances such as a microwave and a ceiling fan.

A Christmas tree also now sits jauntily in the corner.

"It's like I'm living in a condo now," a beaming Mr De Foe, who lives with his wife Audrey Chelliah, 51, told reporters at an event held to mark the completion of the redecoration works on Friday (Dec 20).

Volunteers from the Eurasian Association, who had helped to identify Mr De Foe as a suitable beneficiary for the programme, also sang Christmas carols to add to the festive joy.

Mr De Foe, who used to work as an undertaker, added that he was particularly thankful for the new microwave.

"I often eat canned food cold because my old microwave had stopped working. But now I can heat up things like baked beans or curry chicken for myself."

The Jamiyah Halfway House (Darul Islah), which helps recovering drug offenders rehabilitate and reintegrate back to society, is run by Muslim voluntary welfare organisation Jamiyah Singapore.

A team of five residents from the halfway house worked for about a week to spruce up Mr De Foe's home for Project Happiness, which had its first run during Hari Raya Aidilfitri in June.

One of the residents, Haziq (not his real name), 33, said this was his first volunteering experience.

"We spent quite a few days cleaning up the house, including scrubbing the sinks and the toilet."

"It was hard work , but I'm proud that I can help others in this way," he said.

Dr Isa Hassan, chairman of Jamiyah Halfway House, said the halfway house hopes to expand this programme next year and reach out to more households in need during festivals.

The next project will take place during Chinese New Year next month.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, who attended the event on Friday as guest of honour, said the programme is an important initiative for former offenders, as it gives them confidence.

"I am very heartened to know that they have been able to put the repair and painting skills that they have acquired during their time in the halfway house to good use."

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