KUALA LUMPUR: The offer from Tenaga Nasional to renovate his house sounded too good to be true.
“I was sceptical at first. I thought it was a scam,” said Lau Swee Leong, 57, who has been unemployed for the past six months.
Lau’s wages as a construction worker was a paltry sum, so he and his wife have been living in government-provided quarters in Selayang for the past four decades. The couple have no children.
The house had aged badly, leaking during downpours but Lau did not have money to fix the roof.
“Whenever it rained, I had to scramble to place pails around the house to collect the water dripping through the roof,” he said.
Lau’s finances worsened when his wife, Khuah Choon Siew, 57, suffered a stroke in early 2012.
She lost most of her ability to communicate after the stroke and, could, at best, stutter.
“We can’t understand what she tries to say. It is such a pity,” said neighbour Jawiah Yusof, 70.
She said Lau and Khuah have been very friendly to her.
“The wife often visited me and sembang (chatted) with my husband and I,” she said.
Since his unemployment early this year, Lau had depleted his Employees Provident Fund savings.
“I was desperate. That was when our village head convinced me about the TNB aid,” he said.
Under TNB’s Mesra Rakyat Project, the power utility replaced Lau’s wooden roof with a ceramic tiled roof and installed a new ceiling. They broke down the front wooden facade and replaced it with bricks. The renovation took two months, and cost RM20,000.
Lau said he was glad that TNB renovated his house.
“I feel more secure now. I don’t have to worry anymore even when there is a storm,” he said.
“The renovation has changed our emotional state,” he said.
Velu Sangaran, 58, who benefitted from the project in Bahau, Negri Sembilan, was relieved when his home was completed by TNB within a month.
“TNB has given new hope to my family. We are touched by its generosity,” said the father of two.
Velu, who is unemployed due to health reasons, said TNB built a new home for him as his old house was dilapidated.
“We could not afford to repair our old place. My family depended on my wife’s income as a rubber tapper and the RM200 monthly aid from the Welfare Department.”
Mesra Rakyat is a corporate social responsibility project by TNB to repair houses of single mothers, senior citizens and people with disabilities in rural areas.
Applicants should not have received help from other government-linked companies and they must be acknowledged by the Welfare Department as coming from the lower-income group.
The project, which started in 2013, has renovated 72 houses in 13 states at a total cost of RM1.44mil.