British High Commission Volunteers Helped Habitat Make A Difference To The Lives Of Bangladesh Families

HFH Bangladesh Earlier Hosted Its First GV Team From South Korea

DHAKA, 11th April 2007: What a difference a day made – that was the common sentiment expressed by volunteers from the British High Commission during their recent build with Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh. The one-day build in the northern Mymensingh district also marked the first time that a diplomatic mission had built with HFH Bangladesh.

One fine day: The British High Commission volunteers helped in various tasks such as laying bricks and carrying sand.

Community spirit: The Korean GV volunteers bonded with the community through building and other interactions.

On 25th March, 59 employees from the British High Commission in the capital Dhaka worked on six Habitat houses in Nandigram and Tatkura villages. Working together with masons and HFH Bangladesh’s national director and staff, the volunteers carried bricks, bags of sand and cement, and built walls of the houses.

Jon Verney, deputy director of the British High Commission’s visa section, said: “We believe that our contribution with a day’s labor and money for building houses can make a difference and improve the lives of some poor families in Bangladesh.”

As many Habitat volunteers have noted, not only do the home partner families feel the change, volunteers themselves are also touched by the experience. “I am leaving Dhaka by September this year otherwise I wish I could come back for more builds,” said Derek Jones, second secretary, visa section, of the British High Commission.

Doing something different from her daily work also made an impression on volunteer Mika Ahsan, a local staff member of the British High Commission. She said many of them who lived in nice homes, often only saw the finished product and did not realize that hard work had gone into building these houses.

Employees of the British High Commission and British Airways also raised funds to support HFH Bangladesh with the intention of sponsoring at least two Habitat houses. The funds for house sponsorship will be handed to HFH Bangladesh later in April.

The British High Commission’s Jon Verney said: “Sustainable development is at the heart of our domestic and international policies; the goal will enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a good quality of life.”

The volunteers also visited a local school and distributed stationery. The British High Commission build received good coverage in local daily newspapers and was also featured on popular Bangladesh TV station, Channel ‘i’ in its weekly program.

Earlier, HFH Bangladesh hosted its first Global Village team from South Korea from 1st to 10th February. The 18-member team, comprising mostly high school and university students, worked on four houses in Gazipur district, about an hour’s drive from the capital Dhaka. Most of the Habitat home partners in the area were daily wage laborers and fishermen.

The volunteers carried construction materials – bricks, water, sand, mud and cement – to the site. Among their tasks were mixing mortar and building brick walls. One volunteer recounted how backache set in because of constant bending but conceded that it was much easier than carrying containers of water to the site from some distance away. The volunteers had to keep watering the bricks to prevent them from drying out and crumbling.

The Korean team also took time off the build to visit a school in the community where they donated toys, pens and pencils to the students. The highlight of their visit was a self-defense skills demonstration by some Korean volunteers. The Korean team also donated US4,250 to HFH Bangladesh to support its work.

Despite the language barrier, a bond was built between the volunteers and villagers after the one-week build. Upon the volunteers’ departure, a Bangladeshi teenager shedded tears when she heard “see you soon” in Korean even though she could hardly understand it. Like the British High Commission volunteers, the Korean team was also enriched by the experience. Although the villagers lack material resources, their smiles remained bright. This prompted a Korean volunteer to say: “From now on, I will try to help other people around me to warm up the heart of the world.”

Since it began in 1999, HFH Bangladesh has built more than 800 houses for families in need in Bangladesh.