SEOUL, 26th September: In its first disaster-response project, Habitat for Humanity Korea recently built 50 wooden homes for flood-affected families with the help of more than 4,000 volunteers.
The families are from Inje and Pyeongchang cities in northeastern Gangwon province. The two cities were among the worst-hit by Typhoon Ewiniar and heavy seasonal rains earlier this summer.
HFH Korea was looking for ways to help flood victims following news of the disaster and when South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry learnt of HFH Korea's intention, it provided funding for the shelter project.
In the last two weeks of August, the volunteers assembled the majority of the 16 sq. m. structures on campus grounds of Myongji University, about 50 km. south of the capital Seoul, in Gyeonggi province.
The remaining homes were put together at a Habitat build site, 130 km south of Seoul.
Trucks then transported the completed shelters to Inje and Pyeongchang in the neighboring province.
While the areas nearby experienced occasional heavy downpour, the site where the volunteers worked was dry until the last day when the shelters were completed. Giving thanks, some volunteers also praised God for the fair weather and the timely completion of the project.
HFH Korea national director Chang-shik Lee said: "This project was important for HFH Korea in a number of ways. First, HFH Korea tried this as our first disaster-response program where volunteers built at some place and the completed houses were delivered to the affected area. We need to consider whether it is possible to run this kind of project as our regular program."
"Secondly, this project also helped raise awareness about Habitat for Humanity through the participation of over 4,000 volunteers. TV stations and newspapers also covered the project. Hopefully this helps our fundraising efforts."
"Thirdly, through putting our efforts together to complete this project in such a short period of time, we learned lessons regarding the organizational operation for this kind of emergency."
Among the volunteers were students, parents and their children, and even a movie star.
In-gye Lee, who volunteered together with his son, Jae-wook, were inspired by the example of former US president Jimmy Carter who was in South Korea in 2001 to help build 120 houses with over 9,000 volunteers.
He said: "Now my son wants to volunteer during his school break so we came together to help."
A celebrity volunteer also helped to boost morale. Amid a chorus of other volunteers' voices, actor Tae-hyun Cha shouted:"Flood sufferers, take heart! We hope you will start a new life in a new home!"
HFH Korea has built 434 houses and repaired over 56 homes as of end August 2006