Korean, Australian And Singapore Volunteers Count Benefits From Bangkok Build

Many Find It Rewarding To Help Families In Sueayai Ruamjai Community

BANGKOK, 26th July 2007: Some had no experience in building; others had their first encounter with poverty housing. Be it Korean or Australian students, or Singapore hospital staff, their recent experiences on a Habitat for Humanity Thailand build in Bangkok left none in doubt of the great need for safe, decent and affordable housing.

Building hope: The Korean team helping to lay the foundation of four houses.

Brighter future: Korean volunteer Hwan Yoon-yong (in white T-shirt) sees the Habitat project in Sueayai Ruamjai as a means for families to improve their lives.

The Sueayai Ruamjai Cooperative Community was the first foreign community that the Korean team had worked in. Twenty-three Korean high school students, along with 10 staff from HFH Korea’s Taebaek affiliate, recently spent a day building at the community, about an hour’s drive north from Bangkok, and learning the meaning of helping families in need.

Team members came from campus chapters in Dan Keok University, Eun Guang Girls High School, Choong Ang University and Bo Sung High School.

Hwan Yoon-yong, 16, said “Before we came here I just thought this would be a holiday trip to Thailand. But today, working here with my friends and the community, I feel we have had the chance to see another side of life where poverty is much worse than I thought.

“I feel pity for the families as I hear their stories of living in poverty but then I see this project as a way for them to live a better life with hope for their families.”

Choi Joon-man, director of the Taebaek affiliate, said: “I wanted to come to Thailand for a long time. I felt since this is the tenth anniversary of the Taebaek affiliate we should let our youth team experience working in another country to better understand the needs outside of South Korea.

“In the near future I plan to bring a Global Village team to Thailand and Cambodia to build houses for people who need a better home for the future of their family.”

The Taebaek affiliate, located about 160 km. east of the Korean capital Seoul, was one of the sites for the Jimmy Carter Work Project in 2001, where 136 units were built in 34 buildings. Prior to the build, staff of the affiliate and the volunteers visited the HFH Thailand office where they were given a briefing on Habitat’s programs in the country and the extent of Korean support for HFH Thailand’s builds.

In addition to the Korean volunteers, two other international teams also built at Sueayai Ruamjai in the same period in mid July 2007. The volunteers carried out tasks such as passing buckets of cement and pouring the foundation for four houses. A total of 88 houses will be built in Sueyai Ruamjai, housing over 820 persons. Phase One of the construction is expected to be completed by the end of September with Phase Two by the end of the year.

Australian James Centenera, 21, led a team from the University of New South Wales that spent a week on the build. He said: “This is my second trip to Thailand and I find this a rewarding experience to help these families. I feel it is important to not only help with donating money but to get right into the job of making it happen by building houses, working alongside the families and volunteers. This is all about interaction and it is something you will never forget.”

The third group from Alexander Hospital in Singapore spent six days working in the community. Team leader Paul Wang said: “Some of our team has worked on other Habitat builds but this is my first build. I feel great to be here.

“How better can you understand the needs of the poor communities than being present and seeing, feeling and working towards a goal? We will all go back and tell our colleagues about this and hopefully encourage others to take part in these builds.”

The families in Sueayai Ruamjai, who were originally living in the center of Bangkok, were ordered off the land by landowners and relocated to Sai Mai district where the community now resides. Most of the families are either construction workers or food and vegetable sellers with an average monthly family income of 10,000 to 15,000 baht (US330 to US494).

Earlier this year, in April 2007, more than 260 Cisco staff members from 15 countries took part in a build in Sueayai Ruamjai. Two months later, a 15-member team from two Georgia-based churches also volunteered in the same community.