On our second Batam Build we go!

Posted by Nadim van der Ros on December 15, 2018
Nadim van der Ros

Tags: Brick by Brick, CSR

Nadim - Group PhotoPhoto Credit: Nadim van der Ros

In Singapore, it’s quite common to see construction workers napping in uncomfortable spots after their lunch. If you’ve ever wondered how construction workers can fall asleep on hard concrete floor, you should join Be An Idea on our Batam Builds for a taste of how tiring manual labour can be.

On Nov 24, Be An Idea had headed to Kabil Village for our second Batam Build with non-government organisation Habitat for Humanity. It was the second time for Be An Idea but five of the team members (friends of our brand strategy consultancy) were new to the experience.

As written in an earlier post, this trip was to help construct a house for villagers whose homes were considered unstable and vulnerable to monsoon rains. In Kabil, a staggering four in 10 live in sub-standard homes — under tin sheets propped up by scrap wood or plywood boards.

That Saturday morning, the team met at 630am at Harbourfront Cruise Centre for a breakfast briefing, then left for Batam on the 8am ferry. We arrived at the worksite around 11am and the team got ready for work, some put on sunblock, others wore insect repellent and pulled on work boots. Soon, everyone had their helmets and gloves on and immediately got to work.

This time round, the team was tasked to do concrete work. Be An Idea’s last visit in June saw the team building beams for the roof and clearing rubble from the interior of the house. Each build with Habitat for Humanity is different because depending on which day you’re going, you pick up where the work teams had left off on the home they’re currently working on.

Last week, we were building a home for a 38-year-old widow who manages a drink stall in the village to support herself and her two young children.

In Singapore, huge cement mixers cart around cement for build sites, mixing the concrete as they drive. But the roads in Kabil were too narrow for these massive vehicles and that one build site did not need that much cement, so the team were taught to make them manually. Three wheelbarrows of dirt, throw in the (very heavy) cement mix, pile on two and a half wheelbarrows of loose stones, form some sort of a well, add six buckets of water, wait, then mix.

Nadim - Mixing Cement 2Photo Credit: Nadim van der Ros

It was backbreaking work. Shovelling the dirt and stones into the wheelbarrow was tiring, the stones were especially heavy; wheeling the material and dumping them on the ground also took strength — a petite volunteer tried and almost toppled over; the mixing took all of us digging and piling with the shovels and dragging with the hoes.

Once the mixing is done and there’s a pile of cement on the floor, two volunteers shovel them into buckets while the rest formed a human chain, passing buckets of cement to where the house would be, where the cement is poured into the base of the home. We managed to do this twice before lunch, taking turns to use the shovel, hoe, be part of the bucket filling group, or the human chain and the slightly easier task of smoothing out the poured cement.

WhatsApp Image 2018-11-24 at 19.15.06Photo Credit: Nadim van der Ros

By lunch time, the group was tired but still chirpy as they got to know one another better, exchanging anecdotes on pet dogs as they ate. The energy expenditure made the ayam goreng taste really, really good and our helpful Habitat for Humanity representative Eric looked up recipes for the Indonesian sambal which the volunteers really enjoyed. The team had a good hour’s break, eating to the sights of village life — cats meowing at us for food, chickens walking around, and curious children beside their chitchatting mothers.

It was back to work at 1pm sharp and the team made three more rounds of cement. In this second tranche, we had gotten the hang of things and needed less guidance from the local Habitat for Humanity team.

WhatsApp Image 2018-11-24 at 22.13.30(1)Photo Credit: Simone Chan

When the foundations were finally filled with cement, the team moved on to lacing iron rods to square rings with wire, a much easier task. We wrapped up around 4pm and headed back to Singapore on the 520pm ferry, where we were treated to a vibrant sunset.

Content writer Samantha Boh said she found the experience tiring but fulfilling and it makes her see construction workers in a new light. “I never appreciated how much work goes into building a home. It goes beyond hard labour and needs skills that we office workers do not have. I really hope our beneficiary enjoys her home and that it’s a comfortable and safe space for her children to grow, play and study,” she said.


At Be An Idea, we believe in building strong communities – whether inside or outside of Singapore. We regularly support social causes in Singapore, but we also feel that the country benefits from our neighbours having just as strong and stable a community. And this comes down to something as simple as having a roof over their heads. That is why we’ve gone twice in a year and intend to go again in 2019.

If you've been inspired by the work that Habitat for Humanity does in Batam to help provide basic housing to those individuals that can least afford it, we would like to invite you to donate to our fundraising campaign for this build. We're aiming to raise $5,500 as part of this campaign. From now until 31 December, you can donate by following the link here: https://habitat.give.asia/campaign/building-thriving-communities-one-brick-at-a-time

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