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Habitat Affiliates In Malaysia Start Building * * * * Renaissance-Marriott Supporters Plan To Scale Southeast Asia’s Tallest Mountain For Habitat

August 31, 2005

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First for KK affiliate: Renaissance and Marriot builders pose after four days building.

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Strong supporters: general manager Robert Frager hands over a donation check to Habitat’s Allen Tong. M.S. Bobby is third from the left.

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Next year’s challenge: Renaissance and Marriott volunteers painting hard with Mt. Kinabalu rising in the background

KOTA KINABULU & KUALA KUMPUR: 31st August 2005: Supporters of Habitat for Humanity in Malaysia plan to reach a new peak – literally – after a summer that has seen two new Habitat affiliates start building homes in the Southeast Asian country.

Volunteers from Marriott group hotels are scheduling a “Climb & Build” next year when they plan to build a Habitat home near the foot of Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain, before climbing to the top of the 4,095-meter (3,421 ft.) high peak.

“The climb will be a challenge and fun,” said M.S. Bobby, public relations director of the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur hotel. “It’ll especially be all about teamwork where the stronger ones help the weaker ones to achieve their goals together.”

One of the new building affiliates was in Kota Kinabulu in Sabah. The second was in the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur in western – peninsular – Malaysia, hundreds of kilometers across the South China Sea from the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo.

Twenty associates from Renaissance Hotels & Resorts Malaysia together with the Miri Marriott resort and spa team worked this month to build the first house for the Kota Kinabulu affiliate. The house was located at Kampong Taginambur in Kota Belud, a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu town.

Volunteers spent four days working with the home partner, Limpakan Bin Bondoron, an 85-year old rice planter, his wife and six children. According to Bobby, Limpakan and his family were living in a shack located near a rice field.

“The shack was infested with termites and the family got their water from a nearby stream. Limpakan’s earnings from selling rice and fruits hardly reach 500 Malaysian dollars a month (about US$132.).”

Hotel general managers Philip Chee, of Renaissance Kota Bharu, and Boyd Barker of Miri Marriott Resort & Spa were among the volunteers.

“The team completed almost 90 per cent of the three-bedroom house. Even the toilet and kitchen sink was fixed on the last day of their build,” said Bobby.

As well as Limpakan’s house, the affiliate is working on one a second home and planning a third. The second, in Kampung Kirotot, Ranau, is almost complete and a third is to be built with international volunteers from Youth With a Mission.

The affiliate’s president Alan Tong said there are plans to build another four to six houses in the next 12 months.

Bobby said Limpakan’s home was the fourth house that volunteers from the Renaissance Hotels & Resorts and the Miri Marriott Resort & Spa in Malaysia had helped to build. They have previously worked on the construction of three houses in Kuching, Sarawak.

The hotels also donated RM10,000, as well as towels, bed linens and blankets to John Chin, president of the national board of directors for Habitat for Humanity Malaysia and the president of the Kota Kinabalu affiliate, Tong.

Marriott International, which adopted Habitat for Humanity in 1995 as part of its “Spirit To Serve Our Communities” Program, has partnered with Habitat to build countless homes around the world especially in countries where Renaissance and Marriott hotels have been established.

Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, the new affiliate has just completed its first home. The homepartner is retired administrative assistant Mohamed Ali Bajunid, his wife Norahmaliza Mahmud and their five children (Read the New Sunday Times). The family owned a small plot of land but seemed destined to living in a shanty village house.

Their new Habitat home, sponsored by and built with volunteers from General Electric Malaysia and the International School of Kuala Lumpur, has three bedrooms. About 80 per cent of the house cost is divided between volunteers and materials, and 20 per cent land.

Mohamed Ali’s home cost some RM15,000.

To ensure an effective revolving Fund for Humanity to finance construction of more homes for the needy, Habitat for Humanity Malaysia has a “house for a house” system. A home partner’s no-profit, no-interest loan factors in a conservative inflation rate of 3 per cent.

Habitat for Humanity Malaysia was founded in 1998 and has since built 35 houses. In addition to affiliates in Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, and Kuching, the latter in Sarwak, Habitat for Humanity is exploring establishing new affiliates in Penang, Malacca, Johor Bahru and Miri.