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US Scouts Build in Thailand: Second Visit to Thailand for California Troop 41

August 13, 2004

CHIANG MAI, 13th August 2004: Seven US-based Boy Scouts plus two scout leaders are building homes for two needy families in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. The seven, all high school students, are from Troop 41, Crew 27, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

Troop 41 scouts were in Thailand last year to take part in the World Scout Jamboree. At that time, troop leader Bob Russell met staff from the Habitat for Humanity Asia-Pacific office who was conducting workshops on poverty issues.

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International scouting bonds: Chris Stiles and one of the Thai scouts moving cement

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“We were so moved by the experience during the Jamboree that I asked our group

Making a difference: Eddie Barshow in action shovelling sand for mortar

if they would be interested to coming back,” says Russell, a retired Bell Telephone executive and scout leader for the past 25 years.

The scouts are building for the HFH Chiang Mai affiliate in Moo Ban Ton Shoke Luang, a rural community four kilometers from the city.

“Many were, so one-and-a-half years later, here we are.” The two families were living in simple one-room houses that were over 30 years old. Their homes were made of rusted metal, bamboo and thatch. In the rainy, season the roof and walls leaked.

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Members of Troop 41, Crew 27 in front of one of the houses under construction in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Left to right: Scout leader Jed Richardson, Joe Baldenweck, Scout leader Bob Russell, Taylor Inglis (front) , Chris Stiles (rear), Michael Kim, Eddie Barshow, Adam Wilson and Brandon Archibald

“It is an exciting thing to see our scouts experience being here,” says Russell. “This was the chance to return to Thailand, the chance to learn new things and to experience the teamwork it takes to do a project such as this.
 
“Anything like this is a discovery for our scouts. It is exciting for them to meet Thai families and the Thais scouts who have come to build alongside them.”
 
Fifteen scouts from the Chiang Mai Prince Royal College troop joined the Troop 41 builders. The two houses are expected to be built and dedicated by 20th August when the scouts due to head back to California.
 
“Our scouts will see the results of their efforts and see that how they will benefit the families for many years,” says Russell.
 
NongYao Wong Kiew, 46, is one of the home partners. Five family members will live in the house the scouts are building.
 
“Our old house was nearly falling apart,” she says. “We felt that one day it would just blow away. Our new house will give us safety and security that we did not have before.

“When I see the scouts make our house I feel very happy to have them here. They have come from a very long way to make our house. We could not have seen this happen without their help.
 
“I feel very proud and when I watch them work. I feel very emotional and begin to cry.”

The scout team leader is 17-year-old Chris Stiles. “We all came here with a purpose, knowing that over a period of two-and-a-half weeks we could help to change the lives of these families, to make a better life for them.”
 
 “Often in the US, we take too much for granted what we have. To me, it is very humbling to see what the people often do here in Thailand with so little.”
 
“There is a cultural aspect of coming to a foreign country. As we grow into adults this will
help us learn about the world around us,” Stiles adds.