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Hong Kong International School Students Become First Global Village Team To Build in China* * *Team Works On Homes in Kunming, Southwest China

April 9, 2004

HONG KONG, 9th April 2004: It was a historic event for Habitat for Humanity International. After two years of hard work, the first Global Village trip to China arrived on 14th February, Valentine’s Day.

The 21-strong team that arrived in Kunming, southwestern China, mainly comprised teenagers, 15 to 18 years of age, from Hong Kong International School, an American-style high school in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The team was lead by Kelley Springer, a teacher from HKIS, and an experienced GV leader. She had previously led two school teams to Thailand.

“The students from Hong Kong International School were honored to be the first GV team in China,” said Springer. “As Hong Kong is a part of China, we feel a special connection to the Chinese people and want to give of our time and resources to people in need.

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“After our Habitat build, we realized that we were the ones who received blessings from the generosity and kindness of the Miao people we built houses with. We were filled with humbleness as we saw their hard work, positive spirits, and gratitude at our presence.” The visit had taken intense preparation from October 2003 when Jennifer Wu, the national GV co-ordinator, began making preparations to receive the volunteers. The Kunming host affiliate and host co-ordinator Judy Chen and construction supervisor Job Wang assisted Wu to ensure everything was in place.

HFHI China staff members were on hand to greet the volunteers at Kunming international airport when they touched down after their two-hour flight from Hong Kong.

The GV team was assigned to build houses for Miao tribal families in Gaihaizhi village, Wudin county. The village was a four-hour drive from Kunming city, the capital of Yunan province. The construction site itself was half an hour’s hike from the team’s accommodation in Shi lata township. For the HKIS students, who mainly enjoy affluent living conditions in Hong Kong, it was a good chance to see and experience life in the more remote rural areas of China.

The GV volunteers spent three days working along side soon-to-be homeowners on the foundations of three houses. The HFH house designs feature bricks and cement.

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After a morning of building, the volunteers enjoyed home-made lunch at the construction site with the local villagers. Lunch times also provided an opportunity for getting to know the villagers better: HKIS students were soon playing basketball and Frisbee with their new friends.

At the end of each day, the volunteers came together for a “Team Reflection”. The reflection began with each person sharing a quote, and then everyone gave thanks to each other for their hard work and co-operation throughout the day. The students were much impressed by how pretty Gaihaizhi was in spite of the poverty and how friendly the villagers were. Coming from a city like Hong Kong, the clear night skies and clean air were a revelation.

Said Springer: “Global Village is a special program that provides the chance for people to put their faith and love into action by working together. Participants gain a unique opportunity to become active partners with people of another culture.”

“What impressed our homeowners about our team was the power of love and the strength of people working together, regardless of their different backgrounds.”

On the last day, about 30 Miao people from the locality put on a culture show. They performed Miao songs and Lusheng dances, and then encouraged the GV volunteers to join in the dancing.

When the team left Gaihaizhi, the villagers showed up standing in two lines, clapping their hands and singing for us. “It which was the most touching part for everyone involved,” said Springer.

Through witnessing the poverty stricken houses in the village, and learning about the lives of the villagers, the team learned much. The HKIS teenagers were able to see how fortunate they were. They were inspired to work hard and realized the uniqueness of working together with people in need. They also saw that they were not only building houses for, but also building hope and lives. By putting their faith and love into action, they displayed the true expression of love that makes Habitat for Humanity International GV programs so special.