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Local Habitat team builds in Bangladesh

(Left to right) Michelle Olsen; Jogesh, the homeowner; and Larry Zilliox dedicate the new home they built for Jogesh at Habitat for Humanity of Bangladesh's first large-scale volunteer building event, the Friendship Build. (Contributed photo)

This past December, two local volunteers travelled halfway across the globe to take part in Habitat for Humanity of Bangladesh's first large-scale volunteer building event, the Friendship Build.

Michelle Olsen and Larry Zilliox represented Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County (HFHDC) as they worked with 76 international volunteers from the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and China to build 10 homes in five days.

Both Olsen and Zilliox have volunteered building locally with HFHDC.


The Friendship Build took place in Srimangal, Bangladesh, where the volunteers worked alongside families from Doluchara village. Doluchara village is home to members of the Tripura community, a small group of indigenous inhabitants of the former Kingdom of Tripura, which is now split between India and Bangladesh. Doluchara village is socially excluded and exists largely in isolation alongside its neighbors.

Bangladesh is situated on a low-lying delta, and is prone to frequent natural disasters such as flooding and cyclones, destroying lives and livelihoods, especially among the rural poor. It is estimated that 80 percent of Bangladesh's population live in inadequate shelter.


Olsen and Zilliox built alongside a single, 65-year-old man, Jogesh. A laborer in the tea plantation nearby, Jogesh lived in a small cattle shed behind his mother-in-law's house. Olsen described him as shy and quiet, but a hard worker.

Zilliox enjoyed how Jogesh followed up on their work laying brick to make sure it was done properly and laid straight, nodding his head in appreciation and smiling as he went along.


The build began with a welcome ceremony showcasing the music and culture of the area. The homes being constructed were roughly 500 square feet, built of brick, with metal roofs, windows and doors. The homes consisted of one main room, with an outdoor veranda in back that functioned as the kitchen, and a small room that housed a squatter toilet.

At the conclusion of the week, Zilliox's and Olsen's home was structurally finished, but the brick needed to cure for a month before plaster could be applied to the walls and concrete poured on the floor and veranda areas.

Each team had two to three skilled workers and a team leader working with them. Zilliox helped with bricks and the roof, while Olsen did a lot of hauling of materials and tuck-pointing the brick.

The build went smoothly except for a political strike that was called on the second day of the build. Due to the high profile nature of the build, workers were kept at the local tea plantation. Villagers shared their music and handicrafts with the volunteers. This was the first of three different national strikes that took place during their travels.

The group celebrated the final day with a home dedication with the homeowner. At the conclusion of the build, the volunteer teams had a closing celebration, where the US contingent performed Take Me Out to the Ballgame, complete with a whiffle ball game and the sharing of caps and T-shirts.

The HFHDC volunteers enjoyed being able to share the local culture and local taste of life and the interaction with the other volunteers from around the world.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity and its programs both locally and abroad, visit or call (320) 762-4255.

For more information on how to support Habitat or get involved contact the affiliate at (320) 762-4255 or or visit