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Volunteers discover the true meaning of friendship

By Tracie Troha

When Jeffery Lundberg and Rima Kawas took on the challenge of leading a Global Village team during the Friendship Build in Bangladesh in December 2012, they were no strangers to special build events. 

Jeffery Lundberg and Rima Kawas, first row on the left, with their GV team in Bagladesh.

The married couple from Minnesota, who have been Global Village volunteers since 2009, had also participated in the 2011 Khmer Harvest Build in Cambodia with more than 300 international volunteers.

With that experience under their tool belts, taking a team to a large-scale build involving around 70 volunteers from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and China seemed like another great adventure.

“Bangladesh was a more intimate experience (from the Khmer Harvest Build),” Kawas said. “It was like a mini United Nations. We were interacting with people from all over the world.”

The 13 volunteers on Kawas and Lundberg’s Global Village team spent a week constructing two brick homes with tin roofs in the Doluchara village in Srimangal.

“The Friendship Build was the first time the village had accepted help from the outside,” Lundberg said. “You could tell from the first day that the kids didn’t know what to make of the new people in their space. As the week went on, though, there were lots of smiles and they warmed up to us.”

Doluchara is home to members of the Tripura community, a small minority group within Bangladesh, and many residents live in dilapidated mud homes that pose health and security hazards.

Volunteers built 10 homes during the Friendship Build and had opportunities to learn about the local culture. Kawas and Lundberg’s team also met with the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, who gave them insight into the country. “We were thrilled the ambassador was willing to meet with us and let us ask him questions,” Kawas said. 

One of the homes the team built during the Friendship Build.

Habitat Bangladesh is working on a major community development project in Doluchara that also includes tube wells, roads, rainwater catchment and drainage systems. The Friendship Build helped play an important role in Habitat Bangladesh’s goal to support 4,000 families by 2014. 

“On the last day, as the families were cutting the ribbons in front of their homes, you realized how much all our hard work touched the lives of these families,” Kawas said. “It was an amazing experience.” The 10 homes built during the event were handed over to the Doluchara families during a closing ceremony on Dec. 7.

Tracie Troha is a program communications writer at Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Ga.