Shanghai (21 April 2018) – Thousands of youth 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.
Rick Hathaway, Asia-Pacific vice president for Habitat for Humanity International said, “We recognize the youth’s 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 youth 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 youth.
New Habitat Young Leaders Build initiatives – a Leadership Academy and an advocacy grants program – further strengthen the youth grassroots movement this year. Participants of the HYLB Leadership Academy get to hone their leadership skills and plan for projects that improve their communities. To date, 410 youth have been trained in the Academy. At least 10 youth groups in the region have been awarded grants to develop projects to raise awareness and advocate the need for decent housing.
Volunteering at the HYLB Asia Build in the Bago region of Myanmar, 20-year-old social engineering student Riota Matsumoto shared, “In the house, we built stairs with bricks, made bamboo nails and built the concrete foundation of the house. I thought it would be easy to do by seeing the workers doing it; it turns out it wasn’t! My favorite job was to build the foundation, because when you do it, it’s easy to see the progress of the work.”
“I thank all the volunteers, I will remember this time forever, thank you very much for our house,” said Habitat homeowner from Myanmar, Thet Woi Htun, 29, in response to the efforts of volunteers who went to her village to help her build her family’s new home.
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 100 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 and 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.