Leveraging special events -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Leveraging special events

By Victor Hanzel Sarceda and Wong Hiew Peng

After the 1999 Jimmy Carter Work Project in the Philippines, thousands of Philippine young people have volunteered at Habitat builds throughout the country. In the first half of 2000, 17,000 young people built 319 houses with 13 Habitat affiliates in the Philippines.

Originally an annual event, HFH Philippines’ Youth Build has become a year-round program since 2004. A special build is usually held at the start of summer vacation during March or April.

The Youth Build’s main objectives are to provide volunteers for Habitat builds and to involve Filipino youth in the ministry of ending poverty housing in the country. They are not just involved in builds; some young people have even organized themselves into youth core groups in their respective schools and colleges, engaging in raising funds, disseminating information about Habitat, and even regularly visiting Habitat communities to interact with home partners. These youth groups also help organize and train the children of Habitat home partners to form choirs, dance groups, or athletic teams. Through these youth volunteers, HFH Philippines is better able to meet the increase in construction capacity as well as reach out to the communities in which Habitat works in for a more holistic relationship.

There are mutual benefits too. Through their involvement in Youth Builds, the young people have the opportunity to also make a statement. For example, 100 youth volunteers, including university students and young people from Habitat communities, marched 2 km. to the site of HFH Philippines’ annual summer Youth Build in April 2005. Accompanied by a band, they held a banner with the theme, “Today’s Builders, Tomorrow’s Leaders”. They worked on 30 houses in BASECO-Bagong Buhay in the Philippine capital Manila. The shanty town on site of the former BASECO shipyard suffered three major fires in recent years and was the location of HFH Philippines’ first disaster response project. In end March 2007, HFH Philippines dedicated the 1,000th house built for BASECO residents.

According to Alberto L. Jugo, HFH Philippines’ president and CEO, the transformation of the Youth Build from an annual event to a year-round program has greatly boosted the national organization’s capacity. Thanks in part to the ready help of Youth Build volunteers, HFH Philippines has built about 16,000 houses to date since it was set up in 1988.

Victor Hanzel Sarceda is HFH Thailand’s marketing communications officer. Wong Hiew Peng is a writer/editor for Habitat for Humanity in Asia and the Pacific.