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Malaysia’s Marriott And Renaissance Hotels & Resorts Send Staff For Fourth Habitat Build In Sabah

21 Volunteers Helped Change A Family’s Life In Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU, 6th November 2007: The last few days of October 2007 would be remembered with fondness by 21 volunteers from the Marriott and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts in Malaysia. For one, it was the hotel group’s fourth build with Habitat for Humanity in Kota Kinabalu, in the eastern Malaysia state of Sabah. The build was also the swansong for a veteran volunteer as well as welcome initiation for new volunteers.

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Teamwork: The volunteers working on the roof and walls of a Habitat home partner’s house in Sabah, Malaysia.

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On the job: The volunteers picking up a skill or two.

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Construction 101: The volunteers getting sand to mix cement.

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Fast friends: (From bottom right) Bobby, Priya and Nik with children from the Habitat home partner’s family.

Following the build, M.S. Bobby, former director of public relations and communications, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, will be leaving Malaysia to take up a posting with JW Marriott in Dubai in mid-November 2007. In her farewell note, she cited the friendship built and support received in the past four years of volunteering on Habitat builds. Bobby said: “I shall miss Habitat dearly…Habitat has been the best community service project, very close to my heart.”

The team of 21 volunteers hailed from five hotels under the hotel group - Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel, Renaissance Melaka Hotel, Miri Marriott Resort & Spa and Putrajaya Marriott Hotel. From 24th to 27th October 2007, they worked alongside Habitat home partner Sheila Justus in Kampong Terawi, Penampang, about half an hour’s ride from the capital Kota Kinabalu.

Sheila, a widow, supports her four teenaged sons on her 900 Malaysian ringgit (about US$270) monthly earnings as a clerk. Sheila and her sons currently live with her parents and 12 other family members in Kampung Terawi.

Although some volunteers were new to Habitat builds, they quickly and adeptly picked up skills such as mixing cement. The atmosphere on the build site was upbeat and jovial, with some volunteers proudly declaring the section of wall that they had plastered to be their “work of art”. Others were meticulous in ensuring that the bricks for the walls of the toilet were properly laid.

Camaraderie was built over the course of the build though the volunteers came from different hotels in the Marriott and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts group. Vijaya Priya Ananthan, Renaissance Melaka Hotel’s marketing communications executive, said: “We have always contacted each other through e-mails…but nothing beats being on site and working together like this.”

Staff response to the Habitat build was overwhelming at Renaissance Kota Bharu Hotel where Nik Adura Zuliana Dato Nik Rashid is the public relations manager. She said: “Everyone wants to come even though they know they are not really coming here for a holiday but to do hard manual work under the hot sun.

“We are sending our staff members on a rotation basis, so eventually, everyone gets a chance to serve,” Nik said, referring to future builds.

M.S. Bobby said: “We believe that it is our social responsibility to take an active part in the communities in which we live and work…We want our associates to be proud of our company they work for.”

Other than the volunteers contributing their time and labor, the Marriott and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts in Malaysia also contributed 15,500 Malaysian ringgit (approximately US$4,450) to support Habitat’s work in the country. This will be the seventh staff build with Habitat in Malaysia. Previously, teams had helped to build three houses in Kuching, the capital of another eastern Malaysia state Sarawak.