The Kwantlen team in Fiji.

Students build peace of mind

Displaced families get assistance with shelters on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji.

  • Aug. 22, 2013 6:00 a.m.

Last month, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) students took hands-on learning to a whole new level – by building bula in Lautoka, Fiji.

The term is synonymous with peace and harmony, and that is what the 17 students of the KPU Builds team – along with members of faculty and administration – set out to do: Build a little peace of mind for displaced families with Habitat For Humanity’s first World Build on the island of Viti Levu.

As a World Build, Bula Build Fiji 2013 is part of the non-profit organization’s global initiative to bring together volunteers from diverse parts of the world to help create safe, affordable and sustainable housing, and to ultimately build hope for communities in need.

Eight cyclone-proof homes were built by the team over the course of a week.

The project was part of the second phase of development in Koroipita Village, a sustainable community of affordable housing that offers shelter, along with education and other services, for families that live in poverty, rendered homeless by the hurricanes of the South Pacific.

The 150 timber-framed, steel-clad homes each cost approximately $10,000 to build, include a private kitchen, shower and toilet and – with the help of over 10 kilometres of steel strapping – are able to withstand 300km/h hurricane winds.

“When someone looks at the initiative, one would think that the greatest gains will be from the families that will benefit from the building of homes with Habitat For Humanity,” said team leader and KPU Criminology graduate Iman Ghahremani. “In reality, what we get to take away as team members will be far greater than what we were able to provide.”

The student-led group – spearheaded by Ghahremani – raised enough money to fund the initiative entirely, a feat that broke a university record for most money raised: An impressive sum of $53,000.

KPU students ran bake sales, awareness campaigns and various fundraising events for months, garnering media attention and fostering community support.

While the build is finished, the KPU Builds project is not. The team is currently in the process of planning an event for early September to share their experience with the Metro Vancouver communities that, through fundraising and support, made helping a community on the other side of the globe possible.

“It was a very humbling experience to work with such a great group of students and, of course, the Fijian people who taught us how to build,” says Stephen Dooley, Director of Community Engagement.

For more information on KPU Builds, and for information on the group’s fall event, contact Iman Ghahremani at iman.ghahremani@kwantlen.net or 604-771-5508, or visit the KPU Builds website at www.kpubuilds.com

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