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To Our Volunteers, With Thanks

 

Malaysian pediatrician Tan Poh Tin (top) at the 1999 Carter Work Project in the Philippines; Jordan Schweiger (bottom) carrying a headload of bricks in Nepal during the Everest Build II.

BANGKOK, 5 December 2012: For more than 30 years, volunteers who give generously of their time, labor and resources have been Habitat for Humanity’s pillars of support. They will continue to play a crucial role in Habitat’s mission as long as there still are families without decent housing in the world.

On International Volunteers Day, Habitat celebrates the contributions of our volunteers. Each year, about one million people volunteered with Habitat, many of them in the Asia-Pacific region. Be they first-timers, veteran builders, celebrities or corporate bigwigs, volunteers help Habitat to build homes and hope.

In the Asia-Pacific region, stories abound of Habitat volunteers who have made a difference. Malaysian pediatrician Tan Poh Tin first volunteered with Habitat more than a decade ago. Her experience during the 1999 Jimmy Carter Work Project led her to help raise a total of 29,000 ringgit (about US$9,400) for Habitat for Humanity’s affiliate in Kuching, Sarawak state, East Malaysia.

Dr. Tan was on the organizing committee of the Malaysian Pediatric Association (MPA) which was hosting the 14th Asia-Pacific Congress of Pediatrics in September 2012. To commemorate the first time the congress was hosted in the East Malaysian city of Kuching, she suggested raising funds for Habitat.

The MPA decided to donate 26,000 ringgit toward the cost of building a house. “The organizing committee was intrigued by the idea that this was not a ‘freebie’ but an interest-free loan that will be repaid in full. The money donated will be self-sustaining, in the long term,” said Dr Tan.

In addition to the sum donated by the MPA, two pediatricians gave 3,000 ringgit, bringing the total to 29,000 ringgit. The giving was prompted by a simple decision by the committee, from the heart, to do something meaningful and lasting, said Dr Tan.

The Habitat connection is an abiding one, as Dr Tan has shown. “A simple low-cost flat gave my own family safety, stability for 13 years until I qualified as an M.D. so I know how a decent house, however small, can change a poor family's destiny forever,” she said. “The Habitat house is a tangible daily reminder to the family that all things are possible! It is, surely, only the beginning of a better road ahead.”

For first-time volunteer Jordan Schweiger, the Everest Build II in Nepal in October 2012 was special. Ahead of the build, his company, Good Well Real Estate based in Salem, Oregon, launched a social mission. The company partnered with Salem high school students who raised funds to build 20 homes in Nepal. Good Well and the students managed to raise US$22,000 for Habitat for Humanity Nepal.

“I volunteered for the Everest Build II thinking that my labors would help to change someone else's life for the better. While I'm sure I helped my home partner family, I myself came away so profoundly changed that I found it hard to leave the very place and people who changed me.

A near-fatal accident involving his two sons in 2009 left an indelible mark on him. “Most of us will not be called upon to die for what we believe in, but all of us are called to live for what we believe in. With 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty, Everest Build II made it clear to me that there is plenty to live for in serving the poor. That's a life worth living,” Schweiger said.

Find out more about Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and other volunteer programs. Click here. For information about volunteer opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, please email apvolunteer@habitat.org.

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