Over 300 Thai University Volunteers Build With Habitat Families Outside Bangkok

Families Inspired By Determination Of Assumption University’s Undergraduates

BANGKOK, 2nd November 2007: Learning went beyond lectures and books for more than 300 volunteers from Bangkok’s Assumption University. The undergraduates had signed up to build with Habitat home partners as part of their course requirements for graduation. At the end of the build, the volunteers’ determination and teamwork became a source of inspiration for the families they were helping.

Weighty task: The volunteers from Assumption University carried out a variety of tasks including installation of steel forms for the foundation (above) and tying of steel reinforcement bars (below).

The 311 volunteers were divided into seven teams. One team after another then worked with Habitat families in the Kaewfachaimongkon and Sueyai Ruamjai communities, north of Bangkok. The focus was on concrete: mixing, pouring it for pillars and laying foundations.

One of the volunteers, Wanwipa Wongthongkham, said: “I was impressed by how the community banded together…the people here help one another. They are united in their dream for a decent place to live.

“I have made new friends during my time here. During our short time together, we have become a team. I have learned the importance of teamwork, not only onsite but in our daily lives as well. Plus, I got some tips on how to do some basic house repairs!”

The 56 famiilies in the Kaewfachaimongkon community used to live on a plot of land near Kasetsart University, Bangkok. After they were evicted six months ago, the families sought help from Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), a leading Thailand government-backed agency that channels money directly to the poorest Thai communities. With CODI’s assistance, the families were able to purchase a 3,200 square meter plot of land in Bungkum, Bangkap district, about an hour northeast of the capital. Fifty-six two-story houses, measuring 20 sq. m. in size, will be built in Bungkum.

The 88 families in the Sueayai Ruamjai community shared a similar story. They were originally living in the center of Bangkok before they were ordered off the land by landowners and had to relocate to Sai Mai district. Earlier this year, Korean, Australian and Singaporean volunteers separately helped the families to build as well as more than 200 volunteers from Cisco and a 15-member American church team.

Domsiri Phonthanya, a leader from the Kaewfachaimongkon community, said: “Our community is pleased to host our first team of volunteers. There is still a lot of work to be done but the student volunteers have provided much needed assistance in the digging of foundations and pouring of cement.

“At first I couldn’t believe that they were capable of such hard work, but I think that the inner determination to serve other people in each one of them gave them the strength to carry on. Each group came here willingly for three days, toiling under the hot sun. Their determination will serve as an inspiration for us all in this community,” she added.

The builds also fit the university’s vision of its graduates as morally responsible citizens. A counselor from Assumption University, Phatsara Phongphit, said: “This activity teaches the students about the three Hs: hand, heart, and head. We teach the students to reflect upon their actions; to think before acting. By having the students build houses, it gives them a chance to see another side of life.”