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Renaissance-Miri Marriott Volunteers Build Two Houses In Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Volunteers forgo climbing Southeast Asia’s highest peak to focus energy on builds

KOTA KINABALU, 28th July 2006: When the volunteers from the Marriott group of hotels completed their Habitat build in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah nearly a year ago, they had plans to scale greater heights in 2006. Their intention was to climb Southeast Asia’s highest peak, the 4,095 m. (3,421 ft.) Mount Kinabalu, as part of a “Climb & Build” program, a program run by Habitat for Humanity Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu affiliate.

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Raring to go: the Renaissance-Miri Marriott team at Kota Kinabalu airport, ready to do their part for Habitat

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Labor of love Kampung Penampang Baru: the Renaissance-Miri Marriott volunteers put so much of themselves into the build that it felt like they were building their own house.

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Solid efforts: working with wood might have been challenging but doing the job well brought satisfaction to the volunteers at Kampung Penampang Baru.

But this month, they chose to forego the ascent, preferring to put their muscles, their donation money, and their souls to work towards the greater satisfaction of building  houses for two families in need of proper homes.

A 20-strong team from the Renaissance Hotels & Resorts and Miri Marriott Resort & Spa went on a four-day build in two remote villages, about half an hour’s drive from Papar town, central Sabah.

The team was led by M.S. Bobby, director of public relations & communications, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel. Supporting her were volunteers including George Varughese, general manager, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel; Izudin Merican, director of operations, Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel; Nicholas Poh, director of events, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel; Nicholas Leong, public relations manager, Miri Marriott Resort & Spa; Nik Adura, public relations manager, Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel; Natalie Uy Lim, club floor manager, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel; and Irene Tham, resident artist at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel.

The volunteers were divided into two teams and the first group worked on a house at Kampung Simpudu.

The home partner was Pairin B Sinuel, 34, a housekeeping staff member at a small local hotel, and his wife Martha, 28, a clerk. A year ago, the couple had started building their own home on a plot next to Pairin’s mother’s house. But they had to abandon work due to financial constraints. Thanks to Habitat’s assistance, the couple was able to resume construction.

The second team went to Kampung Penampang Baru, Kimanis, about 40 minutes’ drive from Kampung Simpudu. There they worked with home partner 41-year-old Vinson B. Kinsan, a driver, and his wife Raimah, 40, and their five children. The family was squashed into a rented, two-bedroom apartment near Kota Kinabalu. Their new house was being built next to his mother’s home in the village.

Though some of the volunteers had been on the 2005 build in Kota Kinabalu, the work was more difficult this time as the houses were made of “papan” or wood. Most of the volunteers were not skilled in construction but it was not the skills that mattered.

“We realized that you don’t need talent to build a home for a needy family,” said Bobby. “You need to put your heart and soul into it and that’s what all of us did, so much so that when we were building the houses, we felt like they were our very own.

“The team just seemed to know what they were doing. It was one happy family helping another family.”

Ding Ding, the nephew of a home partner, tugged at the volunteers’ heartstrings when he presented them with a beautiful drawing and thanked them for helping his family to have a decent home to live in.

The volunteers also built rapport with the community through various activities. They cooked their meals at the build sites and played a football match with the villagers at Kampung Simpudu. Through some lessons, Bobby introduced the village children to Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel as well as places of interest in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Focusing their energies on building instead of climbing Mount Kinabalu also had a financial spin off. The volunteers donated 15,500 Malaysian ringgit (over US$ 4,200) – much of which would have gone on the climb – to the Kota Kinabalu affiliate.

Renaissance Hotels & Resorts in Malaysia and Miri Marriott Resort & Spa is managed by Marriott International, which adopted Habitat for Humanity in 1995 as part of its “Spirit To Serve Our Communities” program. Marriott International has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build countless homes around the world especially in countries where Renaissance and Marriott Hotels have been established.

In 2003, a team from Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel and Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel built two Habitat houses in Kuching, Sarawak in eastern Malaysia. The following year in 2004, volunteers from four Renaissance Hotels in Malaysia and the Miri Marriott Resort and Spa worked on a Habitat house in Kuching.

In 2005, the volunteers built the first house for the Kota Kinabulu affiliate in Kampung Taginambur in Kota Belud, a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu town.

Habitat for Humanity Malaysia was founded in Kuching, Sarawak, in 1998 and it has two affiliates in Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur. Its principal activities have been concentrated in Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo