Japanese youth volunteers at Pacific Build 2019 in Fiji

Asia and Pacific Builds 2019

MANILA (March 7, 2019) — About 20 Japanese youth volunteers broke ground yesterday in Fiji for this year’s Pacific Build, a key initiative under Habitat for Humanity's Young Leaders Build.

From March 6 to 16, they will partner with a family to build a secure, decent home in Korobebe village, a mountainous area in Nadi, Fiji. The volunteers are following in the footsteps of their counterparts at the Asia Build from February 12 to 19 in Sonpi village, Thanatpin township, in Myanmar's Bago region. Fifty-two Japanese youth had built disaster-resilient bamboo homes alongside four Myanmar families at the Asia Build, also part of the Habitat Young Leaders Build.

Japanese youth volunteers at the close of the Asia Build in Myanmar.

Japanese youth volunteers at the close of the Asia Build in Myanmar. Photo: Habitat for Humanity Myanmar/Htoo Htoo Aung.

Rick Hathaway, Asia-Pacific vice president, Habitat for Humanity, says: "Having the heart of a volunteer creates good things, as shown by these young people who help build houses and spend time with families and communities that we are supporting. From this annual activity, we hope to build a generation of young leaders who will raise awareness and resources to help families build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter."

Held for the second year, the Asia and Pacific Builds are key initiatives of the annual regional Habitat Young Leaders Build campaign that galvanizes youth to raise funds and awareness of the need for decent housing as well as volunteer on builds.

The 2019 #HabitatYLB Asia and Pacific Builds also mark the 30th anniversary of Habitat’s Global Village program that sends volunteers on overseas trips to work hand-in-hand with families to build secure, affordable houses.

Rino Yoshida, 19, was among those who volunteered at the Asia Build. It was her second Global Village trip, having previously helped build a house in Battambang, Cambodia. When she heard about the #HabitatYLB Asia Build from a school friend, she decided to volunteer again. “I wanted to learn how to build a bamboo house,” she says. “When I first saw the family whose house I would help build, I felt awkward. I saw that their temporary house was fragile and vulnerable. Once the house is finished and the family has moved in, my wish is that they will have a better life.”

(Clockwise from top) Rino Yoshida (far left) and other Japanese volunteers at Asia Build in Myanmar; future homeowner U Thein Naing and his children in their old house and while his house was being built.

(Clockwise from top) Rino Yoshida (far left) and other Japanese volunteers at Asia Build in Myanmar; future homeowner U Thein Naing and his children in their old house and while his house was being built.

U Thein Naing, 49, is one of the four new Myanmar homeowners in Sonpi village. Despite all their efforts, he and his wife, Daw Khin Aye, 54, find that their monthly income of 100,000 Myanmar kyat (US$65) is just enough to pay for their children’s school fees and food. They could not afford to spend more money on annual house repairs. With the support of Habitat and the Asia Build volunteers, his family now has a safe, secure home that will not leak during the rainy season.

“The first time I saw the volunteers, I already felt like they were part of the family. No words can express my happiness. Without them or Habitat, there is no way we could afford a strong house. My favorite part of the build was when we built the stairs and the water tank, because I never had those before,” says U Thein Naing.

The Habitat Young Leaders Build, now in its eighth year, will culminate on April 13, 2019. Youth from across the Asia-Pacific region will support families in need of decent housing through a multitude of activities. These include house construction, school cleaning, hygiene and sanitation education, fundraising events, and advocating for decent homes on social media.

Since 2012, over 12.5 million Habitat Young Leaders Build supporters have raised US$7.5 million in funds to help build houses and supported more than 29,000 families across the Asia-Pacific region.

Join the Habitat Young Leaders Build community on Facebook bit.ly/HabitatYLB. Post on social media with the hashtag #HabitatYLB. Follow on Instagram @HabitatYLB.