Young Volunteers In Asia Make A Huge Impact With Habitat For Humanity Youth BUILD 2012

700 Families Served

Sweaty hard work leads to satisfaction and achievement for Habitat Youth BUILD volunteers across Asia.

BANGKOK, 24th May 2012: The first Asian Habitat Youth BUILD culminated in a one-day simultaneous build on 12 May 2012. In a nutshell, the five-month campaign took place across five countries, involved 5,000 on-site young volunteer builders, served more than 700 families, raised more than US1 million and got the word out to more than two million supporters of the urgent need for decent housing in the region.

But ultimately the impact starts with just one! One volunteer, one home partner, one fundraiser, one donor and one staff member.

Home partner’s daughter becomes a Habitat engineer

As a young girl, Fairy Malong watched both Filipino and international volunteers from Habitat for Humanity come to help her family build their home 12 years ago. She was so intrigued by the help that a bunch of strangers gave that she decided to become an engineer when she grew up, just so she could work for Habitat. Most recently, she had the chance to pay it forward. Fairy was part of the staff contingent for HFH Philippines Youth Build where over 3,700 volunteers worked with families from two communities to rebuild homes they had lost because of Typhoon Nesat and Severe Tropical Storm Washi. Fairy, her parents and four siblings continue to live in the house that Habitat volunteers built. She was quoted in a national newspaper The Philippines Staras saying “But when you see people giving to you, helping you even if they don’t know you, you grow up to be giving and helpful too.”

In Indonesia, Habitat Youth BUILD was held in six build sites around the country. “We can’t say anything but thank you. Habitat for Humanity and the young volunteers helped us make our dream come true—a decent house to live in,” said Jamilah, a 31-year-old mother of four from Sentul, 48 km. south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta. She works as a laborer, earning 10,000 Indonesian rupiah (US1) a day. Jamilah and her family used to live in a house with a leaky roof and poor ventilation. They had no a toilet. Building alongside Jamilah and 27 other home owners were over 300 volunteers. The young volunteers in Indonesia had a memorable building experience. Jessica Mitzy, 16, said: “I had a great time working with other young people toward a common goal—to help others to have a decent place to live in. I look forward to the next time I can build again; hopefully others can join us too.”

Another Habitat Youth BUILD volunteer, Zeenia Kolah, from JB Petit High School, Mumbai said “I am happy that my friends joined me for Habitat Youth Build. It is great to see young people in India concerned about the well-being of others.” Zeenia joined over 500 volunteers including a group of nine volunteers from Seeds of Peace, in building and repairing 45 homes across four states in India. Seeds of Peace is an NGO that wants to empower young leaders from regions of conflict with leadership skills to encourage peaceful co-existence for the next generation.

Collective effort = Greater impact

In central Thailand, nearly 200 Youth BUILD volunteers weathered the heat to construct a community center which would serve as an evacuation center in the future for families displaced by the severe floods of 2011. The volunteers from Thai and International schools in Bangkok travelled to the community of Bang Ban in the province of Ayutthaya to build under very hot and sweaty conditions. Just the week prior to the build, they were experiencing unexpected high temperatures that exceeded 40C (104F). Despite the heat, Kaichi Ishihara and Kunyarat Kitbumrung from Thewphaingarm School still had smiles on their faces as they worked with their team to form 20-feet long steel structures that will help to reinforce concrete and masonry. At one point in the afternoon, wilting spirits were lifted by a rousing bantering sing-off led by local Thai singer Looksorn Bhandhukravi with responses from an all-girl volunteer team.

The perseverance of the Thai volunteers made an impression on Habitat for Humanity intern Trevor Dougherty, 19, who lives in New Mexico, U.S.A. “I was inspired to see young people working together to assist a community in need, with the help of local officials and even a few national celebrities. Habitat for Humanity creates such a powerful sense of teamwork…we can do much more as a group than we can do by ourselves!” he added.

The catalytic influence is best seen in a group of dedicated Filipino volunteers—HFH Philippines Youth Council—who spearheaded the expansion of last year’s 1K for 1Day youth build in Calauan, Laguna province, into this year’s Asia-wide Habitat Youth BUILD. The Habitat Youth Council in the Philippines has inspired the formation of a similar Youth Council in India.

At the Youth BUILD site in Guangdong province, China, international film star Jet Li made great impact on the awareness of the mission to build homes, communities and hope. In an earlier pre-event video appeal, he said: “I believe everyone should have a place to call home. A healthy and stable living environment in which we can nurture our children.” On 12 May, Li built alongside 320 volunteers and was warmly welcomed by the entire village of Shuiweidong. He was reported as saying in a Chinese article that he does not need thanks for doing something for the big family of humanity because it is what he ought to do.

Celebrity and online impact

Also building alongside volunteers and home partners across Asia were celebrities like actress and singer-songwriter Karen Mok, entrepreneur Christie Wo, TV host Viann Liang, from Hong Kong, Indonesian singer Delon Thamrin, actor Matteo Guidicelli and theater actress Cris Villonco from Philippines and pop singer and pianist Tor Saksi and from Thailand.

Numerous activities and events were organized in the five months lead up to 12 May 2012. These included a glitzy launch at a trendy mall in Manila, music concerts in Mumbai, and an ‘I love Bang Ban’ fundraiser in Bangkok.

Other Habitat for Humanity ambassadors such as Filipino boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao, Bollywood actresses Jacqueline Fernandez, Aditi Rao Hydari, Indian American actor Omi Vaidya, Filipino actor and host Derek Ramsay, Hong Kong singers and actors William Chan, Sherman Chung, Kay Tse and Michael Wong, all lent their support in the run-up to Habitat’s Youth BUILD to help raise awareness, encourage donations and recruit volunteers.

As part of campaign, the five countries and Habitat supporters set up fundraising pages on the portal. Regional and local celebrities from the different participating countries contributed to a support-Youth-BUILD video. A dedicated peer-to-peer fundraising portal was built and all of HFHI and national office social media channels were tapped extensively to raise awareness of the campaign. The word was also spread through traditional media.

Habitat supporters raised funds with a particularly memorable video post of a Hong Kong student pledging to wax his legs for a donation of HK5,000 (US640) to Youth BUILD China. First reports suggest he exceeded his fundraising target and kept his word, sans some hair. Many supportive messages were posted on . Fay Gunn from Amherst, New York wrote: “What a wonderful world we live in…there are beautiful people everywhere reaching out to help others. I love it…” At the end of his day of building, Filipino Mykel Don Rodrigo @mykeldon tweeted: “exhausted I may be, I am still in high spirit with what I have accomplished today!” Lots of photos and comments have been posted to the global Facebook page as well as the respective country pages.