The TreeHouse is Baan Dem Rak‘s new staff housing project and its story begins from the life of one child. “C” is a young girl who has been coming to BDR’s children programmes for some time. In mid-2020, the staff started to observe bruises and wounds on C’s body.
By this time, God has blessed us with a good relationship with C. However, it was natural that C was not ready to open up to the staff about the wounds on her body. As the staff continued to build rapport with her, she slowly began to speak up. Although she is very young and does not have the vocabulary to put a name to her situation, we surmise from what she reveals that it is highly likely that she is being sexually abused at home.
We definitely had to do something to help her. While we continued to help C and her family in practical ways such as helping C with hair cuts, advocating for C’s family to send her to school, and helping with C’s school fees, we struggled to figure out how to take concrete action for her safety.
The Fear is Real
Things became even more complicated when we found out the profile of the perpetrator. His history of drug addiction, imprisonment due to drug-related charges, violent behaviour and burglary had us very concerned. At this time, some of our staff members had been residing at the community centre, a semi-public place. Having the perpetrator living just two streets away caused lots of worry among the staff team. The perpetrator could very well get to know about our intervention plans and want to harm our staff, especially if he is high on drugs. Hence, there was mounting fear in taking action to intervene for C’s safety against the perpetrator.
A New Vision
As leaders of the ministry, we were conflicted. We want to help C, we want our staff to have the courage to intervene, but we did not want the staff to put themselves at unnecessary risk. While we challenged our staff to trust in God’s protection, we knew we had to take the safety concerns seriously. One solution was to request for all the staff members to rent rooms to stay on their own, but it would be a heavy financial burden for them. It was at this point that the vision for a safe staff housing space, the TreeHouse, was birthed.
As we laboured towards the vision of affordable, community-based safe housing, we realised that the benefits are multi-fold. For example, the community centre had always faced space constraints. With the staff moving to the TreeHouse, space has been freed up indoors for a proper office, training rooms, and activity rooms. During rainy and hazy seasons, this will be a lifesaver!
The TreeHouse also has the potential to generate job opportunities for our community and resources for ministry. At a really good rental rate, we found a townhouse that has 6 rooms, less than a kilometre away from the community centre. While the staff would occupy 3 rooms, we plan to convert the remaining 3 rooms into mission team housing. This could create the need for various services, such as laundry, which can be done by people in the neighbourhood that we serve.
A Tree of Opportunity
This was how God led us from vision to reality. Right now, the house has been fully furnished and all the staff have moved in. Praying together as a team, we named the project “TreeHouse” based on the story of Zacchaeus climbing the fig tree in Luke 19.
Having a haven like the TreeHouse helps us to build our capacity to continue making this neighbourhood a safer place for kids like C. Not only that, the TreeHouse is yet another way in which we are God’s love to our community by creating opportunities for them to fulfil God’s purpose in their lives. We look forward to witnessing how the TreeHouse will be a tree of opportunity for people to come to know God’s love!