Japanese volunteer Ryota Matsumoto (right) with Habitat homeowners at Asia Build, Myanmar.

Youth leadership is key

MANILA (April 21, 2018) – Thousands of youths in the Asia-Pacific region answered the call to be proactive home and community builders for the culmination of Habitat for Humanity Young Leaders Build, an annual volunteer, fundraising and awareness campaign that focuses on the need for decent and affordable housing for all.

The movement has grown to be Habitat’s largest youth initiative in the Asia-Pacific region supported by more than 8 million people through onsite build activities and social engagement over seven years. Since 2012, HYLB has raised over US$5.2 million to support 25,635 families to achieve strength, stability and self-reliance through decent housing.

Rick Hathaway, Asia-Pacific vice president for Habitat for Humanity International, said: “We recognize the youths' capacity to shape our future and lead a movement where young volunteers help in building safe, resilient, and thriving homes and communities. We want to engage the youths in a shared vision of creating homes where families can take better care of each other and enjoy access to better health, clean water, improved sanitation, and comfortable spaces for rest, recreation and learning.”

Adequate, safe and affordable housing is a basic need covered under Goal 11 — sustainable cities and communities — of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. In the Asia-Pacific region, decent housing remains elusive especially for 570 million people living in slums. Habitat for Humanity takes on this challenge in partnership with governments, businesses and communities, including the youths.

Habitat Young Leaders Build's Leadership Academy

Nepal is among the countries that conducted training in the Leadership Academy, a new initiative under Habitat Young Leaders Build.

New Habitat Young Leaders Build initiatives — a Leadership Academy and an advocacy grants program — further strengthen the youth grassroots movement this year. Participants at the HYLB Leadership Academy get to hone their leadership skills and plan for projects that improve their communities. To date, 410 youths have been trained in the Academy.

Meanwhile, at least 10 youth groups in the region have been awarded grants to develop projects to raise awareness and advocate for the need for decent housing. HYLB’s Race to Fundraise challenge reaches out to youth organizations to encourage them to raise resources for Habitat housing programs.

Other supporters have done their part by contributing their labor. Volunteering at HYLB's Asia Build in Myanmar, 20-year-old Japanese student Ryota Matsumoto shared: “We built stairs with bricks, made bamboo nails and built the concrete foundation of the house. I thought it would be easy to do this by seeing the workers do it. It turned out it wasn’t! My favorite job was to build the foundation because when you did  it, it was easy to see the progress of the work.”

The volunteers' efforts were appreciated by Habitat homeowners who partnered with them at Asia Build. “I thank all the volunteers. I will remember this time forever. Thank you very much for our house,” said Thet Woi Htun, 29.

#OpenTheDoor - a hashtag for Habitat Young Leaders Build

To amplify the message of Habitat Young Leaders Build, the hashtag #OpenTheDoor is used to signify the joy and security that Habitat homeowners feel when they first settle into their new homes.

As part of the culmination of HYLB, groups in 17 countries and one special administrative region converged in their communities and schools to build homes and classrooms, paint walls, clean women’s shelters, repair pathways and carry out other community works with local partners.

In Japan, HYLB campus volunteers trooped to Fukushima to hold commemorative build activities to honor the survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Around 120 HYLB volunteers from China and Hong Kong started working on six houses in a three-day build in Guangzhou. Students from South Korea’s top four universities repaired homes in Seoul. About 1,500 Filipino volunteers built and painted on 16 sites in the Philippines. Thousands of supporters in India took part in hygiene and hand washing training sessions, and worked on building houses. Simultaneous builds, community events and awareness raising activities also commenced in Bangladesh, Fiji, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Building on the momentum of HYLB, now on its seventh year, Habitat aims to reach more people and strengthen youth engagement through its message of PLAY LEAD SHARE from onsite build zones to online platforms. Using social media to amplify HYLB’s message, #OpenTheDoor hashtag is used to signify the joy and security that Habitat homeowners feel when they first settle into their new homes. Capturing and sharing online photos and videos of Habitat supporters opening doors also represent opening new opportunities to work together and contribute more to help families and communities to achieve strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.