On Jan 29 2017, Puan Rahayu Awang, 45, received the keys to her new home in Kampung Bukit Kenak in Besut, Terengganu, from Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, the Minister of Higher Education, who is also Besut MP.
She was the recipient of the 100th Rumah Komuniti or Community Home.
Accompanied by her husband Rafizan Mohamad, 43, and their seven children aged between two and 25 years old, Rahayu could be seen tearing up upon entering their new home, which was painted pink on the outside, with white walls inside.
She looked at the minister, and she gestured in a manner similar to giving him a flying kiss.
“That’s sign language for ‘thank you’”, said Pok Su Rani, emcee for the handover ceremony.
Rahayu and her husband are both hearing impaired. They earn RM900 a month cleaning chicken.
The Rumah Komuniti was initiated to provide free homes to poor families.
The challenge was to build homes which were sturdy yet cost-effective, comfortable yet practical for a family.
Each Rumah Komuniti is 600 sq feet, has three bedrooms, a living room, a small kitchen space and one bathroom.
They are built using Industrial Built Systems (IBS) construction methods which have evolved and been refined throughout the course of building the 100 homes.
While earlier versions of the homes took just under one month to build, future versions of the home which use hyperbeam technology and aluminium foamwork lafarge concrete will enable them to be completed within nine days.
Most impressively, each Rumah Komuniti costs no more than RM20,000 to build.
This is achieved through an innovative mixture of volunteerism, waqf (Islamic endowment), donations, and technology.
What makes the Rumah Komuniti special is that they are built by students and lecturers from our polytechnics and community colleges nationwide.
There are 34 polytechnics and 94 community colleges that focus on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes.
Polytechnics and community colleges are under the purview of the Ministry of Higher Education.
The students and lecturers involved in the Rumah Komuniti project do everything from preparing the foundation to fixing the walls, to installing the roofs and placing the electrical wiring.
They also do the 3D modelling for the homes before building them.
Essentially, our students are able to convert the theory they learn in the classrooms into practice.
The students aren’t alone in building the Rumah Komuniti.
The success of the initiative lies in the collaboration between the students, professionals and local contractors, as well as the local community.
Professional engineers and local contractors are on hand to guide the students with expert knowledge.
The locals assist by lending manpower, and they also help ensure that the students’ welfare is taken care of.
Friendships are forged and life-long experiences gained through this project.
There is a lot of care, appreciation, and love shown towards each other and for the project. The symbiotic nature of the Rumah Komuniti project is truly special.
The recipients of the Rumah Komuniti are selected by the Besut Parliament Office.
The team, lead by Haji Li, canvasses the local community to find families in need of a new home.
Every recipient has their own unique story and circumstances.
Senah's home burnt down in a fire a year ago, and she had been living with her husband and seven children in a single room shack built by neighbours and villagers.
Her husband Zul was so grateful to receive the home that he prepared pulut kuning (yellow rice) on the day of the handover.
Aishah is a single mother of four children whose husband died in a road accident a few months ago.
The Rumah Komuniti gives her and her children a new hope.
The first Rumah Komuniti took about 20 days to build and was handed over on Feb 8 last year.
The 100th home took 14 days to build and was handed over on Jan 29.
Within less a year, 100 homes were built and 100 families were given a new lease of life.
The Rumah Komuniti has been lauded for its innovative communal approach to home building.
Currently available in Terengganu and Tawau, Sabah, 2017 will see the initiative expand across the nation.
The Minister of Higher Education has offered the Ministry’s assistance to other organisations that intend to embark on the same.
Charity (in the wide sense), does indeed begin at home.
(For more information on this initiative, kindly visit: www.rumahkomunitibesut.com)
Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.