HFH Mongolia Gets Ready For Blue Sky Build

About 100 International Volunteers Arrive In Ulaanbaatar Ahead Of One-Week Blitz Build

ULAANBAATAR, 27th June 2010: About 50 international volunteers for Habitat for Humanity’s Blue Sky Build arrived in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar yesterday (26th June) to a warm welcome and a more intense summer than expected.

Volunteers receiving their name tags and goodies bags at the registration for the Blue Sky Build in Ulaanbaatar.

Skilled workers preparing the houses ahead of the Blue Sky Build.

Team leaders being briefed by HFH Mongolia’s national director Charles Jolliffe.

Several volunteers had arrived in Ulaanbaatar a few days earlier for some recreational activities before the one-week blitz build which runs from 28th June to 2nd July.

The build will see international volunteers building 29 homes alongside Habitat families and local volunteers in Bayanzurkh district, about 15 km. from the city center.

A test house was completed by a team of U.S. volunteers in May. The Blue Sky Build also marks the 10th anniversary of Habitat for Humanity Mongolia.

After a night’s rest, the volunteer team leaders were ready to check out the build site. They were briefed by Charles Jolliffe, HFH Mongolia’s national director and Odbaatar, the site manager. Then various team leaders proceeded to the respective houses for a closer look.

Previous Habitat volunteer teams to Mongolia have helped to prepare the houses, each measuring 36 square meters in size, by pouring house foundations, building floors with wall frames and completing external brick walls up to the window level, or about one meter high.

During the week, the volunteers’ goal is to put in insulation materials for the walls and complete the remaining portion of the brick walls and roofing works. Spread over a 1.9 ha site with land donated by the district government, the houses will be built with wood frames, Styrofoam, fiberglass insulation, clay bricks, wood rafters and galvanized iron roof sheeting.

The 35-degree Celsius summer caught some volunteers such as Helen Wong from Hong Kong by surprise. This is the second time that she is volunteering with Habitat, having worked on the 2009 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in China’s Sichuan province last November.

In Ulaanbaatar with her friend and fellow volunteer Pat Wan, she said: “We are pretty sure that we wanted to go on another build with Habitat after Sichuan. We wanted to do a Habitat build every year.”

Wong signed up for the Blue Sky Build to see if Mongolia is a suitable volunteer site for students from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology where she works. Wong is the assistant director of student affairs at the university and also program director of HKUST Connect, a community engagement initiative that aims to raise civic awareness and deepen student learning through community service.

Her main duty is to look out for service learning opportunities for the students and Mongolia happens to be a favorite destination among the students. “My mission is to check out Mongolia and organize a Global Village volunteer team the next time if it is suitable.”

While Ulaanbaatar’s blistering summer is different from the wintry chill experienced during the 2009 Carter Work Project in Sichuan’s Qionglai city, Wong is looking forward to the Blue Sky Build. “I am impressed with my team leader who is very professional and I am pretty comfortable even though I am a novice in construction.”

Wong also likes the idea of working with local volunteers including Mongolian students who will be onsite during the week. The language difference “is not a barrier if everyone has the same goal”. In their meeting with HFH Mongolia’s construction team, the volunteers have been taught certain useful Mongolian phrases such as “stop”. This is important given the attention to safety on the build site, said Wong.

Before the build starts tomorrow, volunteers will be attending a welcome dinner and be treated to Mongolian cultural performance at the Ulaanbaatar hotel where they are staying.

Scorching heat aside, volunteers are in for a week of “interesting and challenging experience”, as Wong puts it.