Habitat's largest volunteer build event in Asia peaks on April 27 with 14,000 volunteers at simultaneous builds across 42 sites in seven countries
BANGKOK (May 10, 2013) ― Before the dust had settled on Habitat for Humanity’s largest volunteer campaign in the Asia-Pacific region, there is talk of a bigger and better Habitat Youth BUILD 2014.
Just as this year's movement built on the results of the inaugural campaign in 2012, Habitat Youth BUILD is eyeing big goals next year. Bold dreams are necessary because the need for decent housing is great ― the vast numbers of families living in intolerable conditions are a stark reminder.
Habitat Youth BUILD 2013 has resulted in more than 600 families securing decent housing. The efforts of tens of thousands of volunteers, both onsite and online, were vital to the campaign.
By the time the two-month online and offline campaign peaked on April 27, 2013, the numbers far exceeded expectations. On that day, a total of 14,000 volunteers worked on simultaneous builds across 42 sites in seven Asian countries ― China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal and the Philippines.
Hundreds of thousands more supported Habitat Youth BUILD online through their social networks, raising awareness and saying 'no' to poverty housing.
Throughout the entire campaign, Habitat engaged its partners including fellow NGOs, corporations and businesses, government agencies and individuals to fight poverty housing.
Among the participating countries, the efforts of first-timers HFH Nepal, HFH Cambodia and HFH Japan were most commendable. In Nepal, Habitat’s vision was to kick off their own national youth movement through Habitat Youth BUILD 2013 by engaging Nepali young people beyond the campaign.
HFH Nepal's initial target was 10,000 volunteers for the April 27 build. But with the support of 34 local partners, ranging from churches to schools to civic organizations, Habitat mobilized close to 88,000 people ― to build, rehabilitate, clean, hold hands, sign and pledge to do their part for decent shelter in the country.
At 10.05 am, a song specially commissioned to highlight the plight of three million Nepali families in need of housing and a Habitat Youth BUILD message were aired by 66 radio stations nationwide. While the song was played, groups of youth linked hands in solidarity.
Post-Youth BUILD, HFH Nepal’s partners planned to keep doing good by organizing monthly builds and regular community clean-ups and planting more fruit trees.
Over in Cambodia, Habitat also had more youth volunteers than expected, thanks to an overwhelming response fueled by zeal and exuberance. By getting popular local singer Aok Sokunkanha onboard for the Habitat Youth BUILD campaign, HFH Cambodia was able to tap her influence to reach out to even more supporters.
On April 27, Sokunkanha worked with 600 volunteers at the 240-house Smile Village project in Phnom Penh, challenging fellow young Cambodians to collectively declare that they will continue to fundraise to support the work of Habitat.
Habitat Youth BUILD was kicked off in March with an animated video, followed by an online T-shirt design and vote challenge which attracted much response. More than 57 entries were received and over 2,000 online votes were cast for the favorite T-shirt design. Cambodian student Lymei Sun, 18, described the inspiration for her popular T-shirt design: "The words are like bricks and cement needed to build up a true home – a home that will provide hope, love, courage, happiness, protection and so much more."
In Japan, volunteers raised around 530,000 Japanese yen (approx. US$5,370) through fundraising activities for Habitat's 'Rebuilding Japan' program. The funds went toward families affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
During their three-day trip in April to disaster-hit communities in northeast Japan, 34 volunteers presented a check to community leaders, met with residents and local students, and built benches and tables for Kibo no Akari (Light of Hope), a temporary shopping street that is part of a community revitalization project.
Acknowledging the support of young volunteers that had travelled to Miyagi prefecture, community leader Naoshi Endo, 64, said: "We need this youth power for recovery."
Masamitsu Iio, a 19-year-old volunteer from Kwansei University, said: "What is great about volunteering is that I not only served the society but also made friends. Working together, learning together, this is how we Youth BUILD!"
The power of young people was fully demonstrated among the pioneering Habitat Youth BUILD countries. In India, over 500 student and corporate volunteers built and painted homes for 50 low-income families in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Karjat (Maharashtra).
"When you live in India, especially Mumbai, you can’t ignore the fact that most people don’t have basic living conditions," said Tarini Data at Habitat Youth BUILD which marked her 13th volunteering stint with HFH India. "If there’s anything we can do to help people, we should. As youth, this is going to be our problem, our inheritance," added Data, a tenth-grade student at American School of Bombay
Leading up to this mega-build, volunteers in India participated in several awareness-raising events including a mass-human formation of the words 'YOUTH BUILD', a conference on affordable housing, rallies to promote housing as a basic human right and a workshop on the role of youth in responding to disasters and signature campaigns.
Celebrity supporters across the region joined volunteers to build, or went online to lend their support. Bollywood star John Abraham (@The_JohnAbraham) led the way on Twitter. He and fellow Indian actor Purab Koli also filmed personal appeals to lend their voices to the campaign.
Their counterparts in Hong Kong, China, also bolstered support online and onsite. "Together let's help our friends in need build houses...let's join hands to help families fulfill their dreams," Chinese pop singer Jade Kwan said in a message to her half a million fans on weibo.com , China’s largest social networking site.
Together with young Hong Kong architect Fai Au and model-actress Kelly Fu, Kwan joined 300 volunteers for a weekend of building in Guangdong province, southern China. Working in two villages Shuiweidong and Yangwei, the volunteers dug foundations, mixed cement and laid bricks to build decent homes for 39 low-income families.
Indonesian home partner families worked together with 40 volunteers to build three new homes in Margamulya village in Mauk, Tangerang, a three-hour drive from Jakarta. This build marked the start of HFH Indonesia's long-term youth initiative to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing in the lead-up to the national Youth Pledge Day in October.
In the Philippines, Habitat Youth BUILD took place in Navotas city, north of the capital Manila, where 2,500 volunteers helped build 140 houses. The houses were constructed with concrete hollow blocks to make them more resistant against natural calamities, in an area prone to flooding due to typhoon and monsoon rains.
HFH Philippines has the distinction of being the ultimate pioneer of harnessing youth power in a big way. Their '1K for 1Day' youth event in 2012, which attracted over 1,000 volunteers, was the forerunner of Habitat's Asian-wide volunteer campaign. Habitat Youth BUILD has set a record as the largest-ever youth volunteer build event organized by Habitat for Humanity in Asia.