Home makeovers help needy students

To get ahead at school, children need somewhere clean and safe to do their homework.

The trouble is many lack even this basic resource.

To combat the problem, a new online initiative has been set up that posts pictures of dirty or badly lit study areas in needy households.

The public can then pick which household they wish to donate their money or time to in order to help provide home furnishings such as tables or shelves.

And when the makeover is complete, a set of "before and after" photographs are posted so contributors can see how much of a difference they have made.

The first-of-its-kind project, which does not reveal the families' identities or addresses, was launched last month by the Student Advisory Centre.

"By comparing the before and after pictures, donors can see for themselves where their money or labour went," said the youth charity's director, Mr Trevor Xie, 32.

"This also helps others to choose which house they would like to help out with, depending on the state of the house."

The centre started its Home Improvement Programme last year after seeing how hard it is for families to break out of poverty without a conducive environment for youngsters to study or live in.

For example, it brought in a set of bunk beds for Mr Sim Ai Song's two children, aged seven and 10, after finding out that the springs of their old mattress were poking through its thin threads.

"We tried to flip the old mattress over so that they could sleep on the other side, but they couldn't," said Mr Sim, a 54-year-old cleaner. "They sleep sounder now and have more energy for school."

The makeovers leave pupils better equipped for class and can prevent them from wandering around the neighbourhood.

Madam Marlina Sudirman, who has two children aged 10 and 11, said: "They used to loiter at the void decks till midnight, refusing to come back.

"Now they want to study at home because it's brighter and more comfortable."

When school counsellor Santhi Pillai makes home visits to her students' flats, she often notices them hunched over their homework on the floor or squinting at their books because of dim lighting.

"They have no proper study area or table, and the home is just too dirty and messy for it to be a suitable environment for them," said the 44-year-old.

Each time the Corporation Primary counsellor encounters such situations, she rallies fellow teachers to chip in to get study tables for the children.

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