Lending a hand - after getting a hand

A SCHOOLGIRL whose home was given a makeover two years ago as part of the All In A Day's Work challenge got involved with it again this year - as a volunteer.

Fourteen-year-old Ong Xin Yi benefited from a new desk which led to her grades improving, and this week she returned the good deed by helping to clean and repaint the home of another family in need of help.

The Zhonghua Secondary 2 student said: "I just want to return the favour and give something back to society."

The four-day HSBC-sponsored project, which ended yesterday, involved renovating homes of the needy, from plumbing repairs and paint jobs to buying new mattresses and beds.

The event is in its sixth year but this was the first time that past beneficiaries had come back to help. In all, 750 HSBC staff and corporate partners improved 92 homes.

Ms Peggy Ong, 30, a relationship manager with the bank, said the experience was "humbling", adding: "It was my first time seeing such poor living conditions. Our team had to scrub hard to remove cockroach eggs and bad smell."

At the same time, more than $154,000 was raised through internal fund-raising and donations from corporate partners.

This money went to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund.

Volunteer Muhammad Hakim, 13, a past beneficiary, said: "My father said it is only right that I go back and help as we were helped in the past."

He added that he was "very grateful" for the charity drive in 2010 that allowed him to finally have a study table and a lamp.

There are 186 children living in the 92 homes and HSBC will give each one a $50 voucher for textbooks and assessment books.

The households will also receive a hamper of groceries and daily necessities.

Henderson resident Wee Poh Leong, 63, was one of this year's beneficiaries.

He lives alone and relies on public assistance handouts as he has been unable to work for the past 10 years due to a chest operation.

Most beneficiaries said their homes have not had a paint job in many years and were appreciative that the volunteers came despite the haze.

Senior social worker Lim Shu Hui, who takes care of some of the children who returned to help, said: "This is an important step in positive youth development, whereby we can raise the civic- mindedness of the youths in caring for others in the community."