Newlyweds open Jurong West home to families in need of shelter

Newlywed couple Melvin Soon and Joanne Ong, who run their new home as a shelter for needy groups in the community. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - While most newlyweds look forward to their first home as a private space, one Singaporean couple is opening their doors to four families that need a temporary roof over their head.

Social worker Joanne Ong, 26, and engineer Melvin Soon, 28, have taken in different families since their new home was renovated in August last year, even moving out in March so a family of seven stranded in Singapore could get shelter in their home.

"We have always believed in helping others and after the stay of the third family, we realised our home is a place for sharing with others," said Ms Ong.

In the spirit of community and giving this Christmas, the couple is hosting three groups in their five-room flat in Jurong West on different days this festive week.

"We will host the children whom we have seen grow up through the years. We are fortunate to have been able to deepen our friendships with them and be positive role models to them," she added.

Making a difference to those around them is the norm for for Ms Ong and Mr Soon. To mark their first year together while dating, they printed mugs and roped in their friends to celebrate Children's Day with underprivileged kids in different estates.

During her university years, Ms Ong did volunteer work with children living in public rental flats. Learning about their challenges and resilience made an impact on her.

She and her husband take life's small disappointments in their stride, turning them into opportunities to serve others.

While viewing the flat in Jurong West, the two avid volunteers found that families they were helping were living nearby.

"If we had bought a home in Punggol, the families we know here may find it difficult to visit us. This way we can meet them often," said Mr Soon.

Their first guest family came soon after their home renovations were completed in August 2019. They stayed for a week while the couple continued to live with their parents.

The second family stayed for two weeks. In March this year, Ms Ong and Mr Soon moved into their new home after their wedding.

As Covid-19 cases spiked in Singapore and the country's borders were closed, they heard from friends about a family of seven from Brazil who were stranded here.

The couple gave their home to the family to stay for two months while the duo moved in with friends.

While there are challenges and inconveniences, the couple say they have no regrets.

In the new year, Ms Ong and Mr Soon plan to invite their neighbours for a meal and get to know them. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

"We had thought about how we would feel if something was damaged in our newly-renovated home. But ultimately, we decided we could live with it, because we experienced the joy of helping others," said Mr Soon.

They are now hosting a single mother with a child, sharing meals with them and even organising a surprise birthday party for her son.

During this Christmas week, they have hosted two parties for the children Ms Ong has been mentoring since her university days.

In the new year, they plan to invite their neighbours for a meal and get to know them.

Said Ms Ong: "Living in an HDB estate, it's easy to lose the kampung spirit. We want to know our neighbours so that we can help and support each other in times of need."

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