US Volunteers Test Out Interlocking Blocks in Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project Test Build in Thailand

First of Two Test Builds in Chiang Mai in Preparation for November Carter Work Project

CHIANG MAI, 15th May 2009: Twelve US volunteers discovered how to build a house with “volunteer-friendly” concrete interlocking bricks at a test build in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as part of the preparations for the 2009 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

The volunteers from the U.S. worked with concrete interlocking bricks at the test build in the village of Nong Gon Kru, some 20 km. north of Chiang Mai city, northern Thailand. All photos by Mikel Flamm.

Veteran Habitat volunteer team leader Bob Bell, with his wife Leslie (top), praised the concrete interlocking bricks which enabled the volunteers to complete all the walls in two days; Ricky Crawford (below), a first-time Habitat volunteer, enjoyed the experience so much that he plans to build in Vietnam during the Carter Work Project in November.

Led by former Habitat staff members Leslie and Bob Bell from Eugene, Oregon, the team included many Habitat “veterans” with experience of build sites in Africa, South America, the Pacific Islands as well as other parts of Asia.

“Leslie and I have worked on over 45 Global Village teams since 1997 and the chance to see a family receive a new home is worth all the effort our team put into making this happen,” said Bell.

Home partners gardener Pimon Kerndoo, 46 and his wife, Saisang Keawta, 48, worked alongside the volunteers, and appreciated that effort.

“I have always dreamed of having my own home. I never could have afforded to do this on my own so this is a very special moment for my husband and I,” Saisang who works as a caregiver for the elderly in the community.

“To see all the volunteers come from far away to build our dream home is a real blessing.”

The five-day test build was at a site about one kilometer from where the Carter Work Project will take place in November.

Team leader Bell praised the interlocking-block technology which he was using for the first time. “It is so much easier for teams to work with since there is no mortar used between the blocks; they basically stack one on top of the other.”

“We were able to complete all the walls within two days, which was amazing,” he said.

First-time volunteer Ricky Crawford, 42, an energy analyst, also from Eugene, Oregon, was in Thailand because of a saw he had lent to a friend who had lent it on to the Bob. “Bob said I could get the saw back only if I joined the team to Thailand. After I learned more of the build I couldn’t refuse the offer,” said Crawford.

“I’ve never been to Asia but the experience has been so rewarding I would do it again. In fact I plan on going to Vietnam for the CWP project in November.”

Habitat construction manager Fernando Morales said the test build allowed them to assess the challenges during the actual build in November when up to 82 houses will be built in one week in the village of Nong Gon Kru, some 20 kilometers north of Chiang Mai city.

Morales explained how the project will unfold for the 2,000 or so volunteers: “The first two days will be building walls. The second and third days will involve installing the roof trusses and half of the roof tiles. The fourth day is completing the roof, toilet and counter top for the kitchen, while the fifth day is for installing windows, doors and partition walls inside the house.”

A second test build is scheduled to take place in late July, this time on the project site.

Two weeks ago, a similar test build took place on the site of the Cambodian phase of the 2009 Carter Work Project.

Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project will unite volunteers and families in need of decent, affordable housing in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Sichuan province in China.