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"A new kind of “volunTOUR”"

A fulfilling vacation can be much more than simply laying on the sand, drink in hand, as travel agents from across the world found out earlier this month. Agents flew into the Philippines from six different countries in Europe and Asia. As part of their trip, they participated in a volunteer build program highlighting that jetsetters can still get a tan and splendor in a tropical destination, whilst also giving back to people in need. The “voluntourists” helped rebuild Bohol at Habitat for Humanity Philippines’ Cortes site, working on three houses. Though not used to the heavy labor, once the agents had learnt the basics of construction work, they gladly gave it their all.

Volun-TOUR-ism
The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) organizes the annual “Philippine Travel Mart,” which plays host to numerous international travel agents who are whisked away to the different Philippine islands. These lucky few are able to experience the wonders of the local island culture and cuisine. They get to party in Manila, lounge in Davao, dive in Cebu, and tan in Boracay, and part of the new DOT initiative is “volunTOURism”, a campaign that invites tourists to volunteer an afternoon of their stay in the Visayan region to help rebuild Bohol by donating their time to construct homes for affected families of the Bohol earthquake.

“This is a wonderful campaign, because it not only gives international tourists a chance to experience the many natural wonders of our country, but they also get a chance immerse in our culture and help out a family” said Charlie Ayco, Managing Director and CEO for Habitat for Humanity Philippines. “When they give their time to help build a home, it becomes a gift that keeps on giving. Plus, they can get a ‘tan for a cause’ at the same time.”

Cortes House Design
The 25-square-meter homes, specifically designed and built by Habitat, in partnership with different government units and private organizations make use of a bamboo-cement technology that promises to be decent, sturdy, earthquake and storm resilient. The home comprises of a lightweight galvanized steel frame that allows its walls to have a combination of bamboo weaving and wire mesh with cement overlay. This technology helps ease construction costs and makes use of readily available sturdy materials, which home partners have an easy access to.

Sweat Equity
Habitat partners along with other sectors, help fund construction materials, arrange logistics and hire skilled workers for these projects. At the onset, beneficiaries will have a sense of ownership for their new home because they are required to work hand-in-hand with Habitat in obtaining and securing locally available materials such as bamboo slats or “lipak” and participating in various construction work like bamboo-weaving or “sigkat”, cement mixing, flooring and painting, among many others.

Volunteers
Private individuals are also encouraged to join Habitat in any of its many ongoing builds across the nation. “We at Habitat envision a world where everybody has a decent place to live,” said Ayco. “We want to achieve this by bringing people together from different age groups and walks of life to build homes and communities, and give hope to our affected and less fortunate brothers and sisters.” To know more about Habitat for Humanity Philippines visit www.habitat.org.ph.