Refused to be branded as hypocritical millennials who critique but do not contribute, John-Son Oei, Jayne Kennedy and Loh Jon Ming have built their dinner table talk into a foundation for social outreach and positive change. In its eighth year, EPIC is as dedicated to its cause of creating platforms that inspire, mobilise and empower people for personal and community transformation, as ever.
Just last year, they’ve expanded their social enterprise to include EPIC Communities, a community-driven development that aims to create cooperative, resilient and sustainable communities and EPIC DNA, an experiential learning arm that works to develop response-able people driven by a heart of service. At its core, EPIC Homes, a movement that seeks to build relationships between the urban and rural divide through the activity of building homes for underprivileged communities remains strong. We caught up with the masterminds of EPIC to discuss their master plan for the organisation.
JOHN-SON OEI, 31, JAYNE KENNEDY, 30, LOH JON MING, 29
(CEO, COO, CFO) AND CO FOUNDERS OF EPIC)
1. In brief, lead us through the process of building a home under EPIC Homes.
Before any builds can happen, we kick-start the process by first embarking on a community engagement exercise where we meet the village head and villagers. We want to make sure we start on the right food and work together, build relationships, understand their situation and assess what resources are available as well as ensure they understand how the EPIC programme operates. Once this is established, the village proceeds to conduct their own internal survey and develop a priority list based on an agreed criteria – for example structurally damaged houses, overcrowding or the elderly.
We look for ways that include the villagers in the decision making process, empowering them with opportunities to have a choice over how things are done in their own village, encouraging dignity and confidence within the people we work with.
Villagers that take part in EPIC Homes are required to commit to the Pay It Forward programme, where the exchange sweat equity for a home, building not just their own home but their neighbours as well, encouraging solidarity and camaraderie.
When funds have been raised and building opportunities are available, anyone (above 18! If you’re younger you need a legal guardian) can apply to register as a builder and go through the Basic Builder Workshop to prepare their hands with appropriate skills, they are encouraged to take part a community engagement session to prepare their hearts with the right mindset and attitude and off they go! A home takes on average 3 days to build with minimum 25 people, lead by a team of dedicated builders who have gone through the process themselves – rising up the ranks of volunteers to team leaders and project managers; or what we call the Specialists and Master Builders.