x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

First Takatof volunteers return from mission

A group of weary and emotional volunteers have returned to the UAE after helping to build homes for poor families in northern Thailand.

The team worked as part of a 3,000-strong effort by Habitat for Humanity International and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
The team worked as part of a 3,000-strong effort by Habitat for Humanity International and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

ABU DHABI // A group of weary and emotional volunteers have returned to the UAE after helping to build homes for poor families in northern Thailand. In their first overseas project, the UAE-based Takatof voluntary group contributed to the Mekong Build, a five-year project taking place throughout the Mekong region to set up housing for 50,000 families.

The 15-member Takatof team worked alongside Habitat for Humanity International and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project on the week-long mission. In total, about 3,000 volunteers built 82 basic homes in partnership with low-income Thai families. "The people we were building the houses for used to live in tents and huts. They never had a real house in their lives and are very poor," said Noah Alhammadi, 28, an Emirati volunteer from Abu Dhabi.

The team worked on house number 33, constructing a concrete building with indoor plumbing. "We used to wake up at 5am, have breakfast at 5.30 and get on the bus by 6 for a half-hour trip to the building site," said Lubna Albraiki, 27, another Emirati volunteer who lives in Abu Dhabi. "There were no break times. We worked in teams of two and if one team had to take a break they would do a handover to make sure there were no time slots missed in terms of work. We all got tans!"

House number 33 was built for Sania, a chef, who was described by the team as their "emotional motivation". "At the end of a long day she would just look at the house with such joy that it would bring tears to my eyes," said Mr Alhammadi, who briefly met Mr Carter, the former US president, when he visited the project. Other volunteers from all over the world provided the Takatof team with some competitive motivation.

"We used to compete with them and say, 'We have to beat that house' and it would encourage us to [work] harder," Ms Albraiki said. As Takatof's first participation in an overseas initiative, the project was an important milestone for the organisation. It was founded in 2007 and started by carrying out school renovations in the UAE. Ms Albraiki said the organisation "should look at more international [projects]" following the Mekong Build "as they are good exposure for Abu Dhabi nationals and the UAE".

Takatof's forthcoming work at home includes training sessions for Fifa Club World Cup volunteers. Abu Dhabi will host the event, which starts on December 9. Takatof will school volunteers in hospitality, co-ordination of guest arrivals and guiding spectators. @Email:newsdesk@thenational.ae