Yesterday together with my colleague, the PS at PMO, we visited the sites and progress of 19 houses that are currently under construction under the Fakir/Daif Housing Assistance Scheme financed by the Brunei Islamic Council and built by PWD. My colleague visited 9 houses in Brunei/Muara and Temburong Districts. I covered 10 houses in Tutong and Belait Districts. Altogether there are 38 houses under construction currently.
The houses are more or less of similar design. However they are being built in all over the places. The ones I visited were in Penanjong, Sungai Kelugus, Sungai Mungkom, Telisai, Keramut, Tumpuan Ugas, Danau and Mumong. Most of these houses will be ready for the recipients to move in before Hari Raya but a number unfortunately will only be ready after that.
Yesterday was also the first time I have actually met the recipients face to face. The secretariat obviously knows them as they were ones who interviewed the recipients sometime last year. Some of the would be recipients were very emotional and extremely grateful that these houses were built for them.
One was an old woman who had been asked or rather told to leave her late husband's house by her step children. She is still staying with them hoping that her own house will be ready soon. But that house too was dilapidated and she said she had to use lots of basins as the roof leaks badly during rainy season. Hopefully she does not have to do anymore soon.
Another was a family who had been staying in the same old wooden house for the last 25 years. They had no electricity and uses gas lantern and a small power generator donated by someone in the past. The mother was talking enthusiastically about her youngest children who needed a computer but even if one is given to her, she could not run it without electricity.
All of the recipients either lived in dilapidated houses (their old houses will also be demolished once their new one is ready) or had no house before. One family had 17 children and another 13 children, I am not even sure how we are going to fit them in the houses we are building for them. Another was an unemployed divorcee with 5 children, only one employed as a labourer very recently. One old recipient lived in a PWD barrack all his life and even when he retired a few years ago, he was still living there. He could not qualify for the national housing scheme as he had a piece of land.
The saddest one was the second last we visited. An old couple with one child lived in a termite infested house. The wife was an invalid and the husband carries her on his back whenever she needed to go somewhere. Their son managed to get a labourer's job recently. But two weeks ago, the wife passed away. Too late to see her new house.
There are many more cases to investigate (500+ at last count) and more houses to be built. The Islamic Council has currently made more than $35 million available, I know everyone will do their utmost to help build these houses. If there is anyone you know who should be included in the program, do write to the Permanent Secretary at the PMO with their address and also their backgrounds. Otherwise, email me and I will get the secretariat to do the groundwork.