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US volunteers test interlocking blocks in Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project Test Build in Thailand

First of two test builds in Chiang Mai in preparation for November’s Carter Work Project


Test build volunteer team led by former Habitat staff members Leslie and Bob Bell.

CHIANG MAI, (May 15, 2009) — Twelve U.S. volunteers discovered how to build a house with “volunteer-friendly” concrete interlocking bricks at a test build in Chiang Mai, Thailand as part of the preparations for the 2009 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

Led by former Habitat staff members Leslie and Bob Bell from Eugene, Oregon, the team included many Habitat “veterans” with experience on build sites in Africa, South America, the Pacific Islands and other parts of Asia.

“Leslie and I have worked on over 45 Global Village teams since 1997, and the chance to see a family receive a new home is worth all the effort our team put into making this happen,” said Bell.

Home partners—gardener Pimon Kerndoo, 46, and his wife, Saisang Keawta, 48—worked alongside the volunteers and appreciated that effort.

“I have always dreamed of having my own home. I never could have afforded to do this on my own so this is a very special moment for my husband and me,” said Saisang, who works as a caregiver for the elderly in the community.

“To see all the volunteers come from far away to build our dream home is a real blessing.”

The five-day test build was at Muang Len, about one kilometer from the Carter Work Project site.


Volunteers build a wall using concrete interlocking bricks at the test build in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Team leader Bell praised the interlocking-block technology that he was using for the first time. “It is so much easier for teams to work with, since there is no mortar used between the blocks; they basically stack one on top of the other.”

“We were able to complete all the walls within two days, which was amazing,” he said.

First-time volunteer Ricky Crawford, 42, an energy analyst and also from Eugene, Oregon, was in Thailand because of a saw he had lent to a friend who had lent it to Bob. “Bob said I could get the saw back only if I joined the team to Thailand. After I learned more of the build I couldn’t refuse the offer,” said Crawford.

“I’ve never been to Asia but the experience has been so rewarding, I would do it again. In fact, I plan on going to Vietnam for the CWP project in November.”

Habitat construction manager Fernando Morales said the test build allowed them to assess the challenges that may occur during the actual build in November, when up to 82 houses will be built in one week in the village of Nong Gon Kru, some 20 kilometers north of Chiang Mai city.

Morales explained how the project will unfold for the 2,000 or so volunteers: “The first two days will be building walls. The second and third days will involve installing the roof trusses and half of the roof tiles. The fourth day is completing the roof, toilet and counter top for the kitchen, while the fifth day is for installing windows, doors and partition walls inside the house.”

A second test build is scheduled to take place in late July on the project site.

Two weeks ago, a similar test build took place on the site of the Cambodian phase of the 2009 Carter Work Project.

Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project will unite volunteers and families in need of decent, affordable housing in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Sichuan province in China.

For more information, see Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project: Mekong Build 2009.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built and rehabilitated more than 300,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1.5 million people. For more information, visit