Making an impact for Habitat Youth BUILD 2015

Beyond record numbers, Habitat’s largest youth movement in the Asia-Pacific region, which peaked on March 21, continues to engage supporters to help families break the cycle of poverty through decent housing

BANGKOK (April 21, 2015) Held for the fourth year, Habitat for Humanity Youth BUILD 2015 posted record-breaking numbers by the time the three-month campaign peaked on March 21. The real achievement, however, lies in its impact on the individual participants and the families whose houses they helped build.

A total of 668,782 young people joined Habitat Youth BUILD 2015 activities in 15 countries and one special administrative region (SAR), raising US523,000 and helping a record 12,910 low-income families secure decent homes. Throughout the three-month regional campaign, participants were engaged in raising funds in online and offline activities as well as heightening awareness of Habitat. The countries and SAR that participated in the campaign were: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

On March 21, when the campaign peaked, volunteers worked at more than 1,600 sites to help build homes. For the first time, more than 770 Global Village volunteers from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore traveled to countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Fiji to join Habitat Youth BUILD activities. It is also exciting to see the participation of seven countries from the Latin America and Caribbean region as a precursor to a global campaign.

Koshiro Asano, 17, a Japanese GV volunteer who helped build in Thailand, said: “I want to tell my friends the meaning of this activity is not only building house, it also builds happiness and future.”

After the launch of the Habitat Youth BUILD 2015 last December, an online bandana design contest drew interest from supporters around the region. Asia-Pacific countries were also united in taking up the challenge of filming short clips that were edited into a music video for the HYB15 theme song “Start the Fire”. Singer-songwriter vanessaTM, a youth ambassador of Habitat Indonesia, composed, sung and donated the song to Habitat. The song encourages young people to be the change they want to see. Watch the video on YouTube .

Celebrity ambassadors and online influencers energized even more participants to join the activities. The campaign garnered strong support in traditional and social media, with more than 50 million total impressions to date and counting, creating awareness about the issue of poverty housing and encouraging volunteerism among young people.

For many volunteers, Habitat Youth BUILD had a life-transforming effect. “It might be just a few days of our lives volunteering here, but it’s a life-long change for these villagers,” said Hong Kong volunteer Henry Chan.

Echoing his sentiment, Holly Zhang from Hong Kong said, “After the build, I realized that it’s not enough [to] merely make a donation, you really have to go into the field to understand what’s happening with the people there and make an impact on others after we go back.”

Others such as Jasmine Khanna, a 17-year-old student from Canada, connected with the Habitat family in a special way. She spent her birthday on March 21 by working on a home for 12-year-old Sujana Chapagain and her family in Hemja, Nepal.

Philippine home partner Jocelyn Mangante (right) with her husband Edgardo (left) and granddaughter Majaila in their Habitat home. Jocelyn gave back to the community by helping out with preparations for Habitat Youth BUILD in Pinamalayan town where she lives. Photo: Habitat for Humanity/Angeli Alba.

In the Philippines, Remilyn Gonzales found fulfillment. “We were not forced to be volunteers. We wholeheartedly took up volunteering, and we are truly happy that as youths, we were able to fulfill what we needed to do,” said the 19-year-old student.

Daniel Hernandez, 16, whose father is the mayor of Pinamalayan town, in the Philippine province of Oriental Mindoro, invited others to join him. “You should try joining a Habitat build at least once!”

In Oriental Mindoro province, the Philippines, Habitat home partners led the way by giving back to their community. Jocelyn Mangante, 59, helped with the community’s preparations for Habitat Youth BUILD. “It’s very hot outside, but we need to help out. Not out of obligation, but out of a sense of participation as a Habitat home partner. I want to give back in the best way I can because I know I could never afford to build this house that Habitat for Humanity helped build for my family.”

Since March 21 was not a school-going day, a teacher led a team of senior high school students to volunteer at the Habitat project site in Oriental Mindoro. Roylan Arcayos, 52, had invited his students to spend their free day helping other people instead of hanging out in their homes.

Habitat Youth BUILD 2015 may have ended but the momentum that has been generated continues with . The online challenge complements the journey of the physical hammer signed by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as it makes its way across the Asia-Pacific region. Launched on April 21, a month after the culmination of Habitat Youth BUILD 2015, it challenges social media-savvy participants to continue raising funds and awareness about poverty housing. The #CarterHammer Challenge will also help mobilize more volunteers and fund the construction of a few houses during the 32nd Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Pokhara, Nepal, in November.