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Mont'Kiara Students Work Tirelessly for H4H

Mont Kiara International School (M’KIS) is a real community school, where teachers, students and parents work together for the betterment of the school. We are WASC accredited, and also provide the IB Diploma programme for our high school students. Community and service play a strong role at M’KIS. As part of community and service, students are given the opportunity to become members of various service groups that help people, animals, and the planet. One of those clubs is Habitat for Humanity. This club is run by myself, Chereylene Gilbertson, and a group of students Officers. Our goal as a club is to build one house every academic year for a family in need. The officers help us to meet that goal by organizing and leading fundraising activities. This year, our build brought us to Rayong, Thailand and the Sritan family.

Zulaika Zulkephli has been a member of Habitat for Humanity for three years. She attended the build in Kuching, Malaysia in 2013 and was able to come to this year’s build in Rayong, Thailand. She has been a strong advocate for H4H at M’KIS and has been an officer for two years. As part of the Public Relations team, she has worked to make advertisements, signage for events, and articles to share with our M’KIS community.

Upon returning from our Rayong build over Spring Break, Zulaika volunteered to write a reflection for our school publication, The Berita. In her reflection, she really got to the heart of why we provide service at our school. So students may learn to give back to their community and the world around them. So they can take action to make the world a better place. So they can expand their worldview and become true global citizens. Zulaika is one such global citizen. She saw how she could help others, took action to make a difference, and grew as a person as a result.

As she readies herself for university next year, I am proud to have been witness to all she has accomplished. I am proud to have worked with her in our club at M’KIS, and I am excited for her future as she heads off to university next year in America. The lessons she learned through her service with Habitat for Humanity have helped shape who she is, and will stay with her forever.

Mrs. Chereylene Gilbertson Teacher, Habitat for Humanity Advisor


By Zulaika Zulkephli, Grade 12 Student at MKIS

I like to think I have four irrational fears: fear of heights, fear of weakness, fear of abandonment, and fear of an inability to make a change. But on the Mont’Kiara International School (M’KIS) Habitat for Humanity (H4H) build in April of 2016, I found that even the most irrational of fears can be overcome, even if only slightly.


The first day of the build with all student builders, along with
Mr. John Gilbertson, MS/HS Assistant Principal and
Mrs. Chereylene Gilbertson, Teacher Advisor.

We began our build as 22 semi-knowledgeable, good hearted, wannabe-builders on the 31st of March; we returned to Kuala Lumpur on the 4th of April as a team of well-adjusted, humbled and experienced builders. In no small part, this transformation was due to the organization that brought us all together: Habitat for Humanity. Led fiercely by Mrs. Chereylene Gilbertson and Mr. John Gilbertson, the Middle and High School Assistant Principal, the M’KIS chapter of H4H accomplished our goal of building a decent home for a needy family in Rayong, Thailand. The first day of the build with all student builders, along with Mr. John Gilbertson, MS/HS Assistant Principal and Mrs. Chereylene Gilbertson, Teacher Advisor.

Our journey started with an introduction to our team coordinator, Bank, a Habitat for Humanity Thailand Team Organizer, who went above and beyond to ensure our safety, understanding, and comfort. In addition, we met our homeowners, the Sritan family, who consisted of nine members, seven of whom would be living in the house we were building. The Sritan family has never had a home of their own, and the place they were currently living in—a one-bedroom rented space—was much too small for their family.

Over the course of five days, our team worked alongside the Sritan family and six to seven construction workers, provided by H4H, to build a house. We started building the foundation which included tying rebar to enforce the walls, digging a very large hole for the septic system, and mixing and passing lots and lots and lots of buckets of concrete. Next, we organized the bricks and learned how to make concrete for the walls, which was a different mixture than the one we used to build the foundation. We all got an amazing arm workout making the concrete and mixing cement powder with sand and buckets of water in a large tub, all the while listening to a lengthy “Newest Hitz” playlist that was pumping out of some very large speakers on the building site.

Finally, we began laying bricks. Teams of two or three were formed and assigned to build different walls in the house. Our initial focus was the exterior walls. As each team took ownership of a wall, we all became connected to the house in a way we wouldn’t fully understand until the end of the week. Laying brickwork took up the majority of our time, as it required us to move the bricks, make the cement, move more bricks, physically lay every brick, and, of course, move some additional bricks.

Other than brick work, we also learned how to create a different kind of concrete for the floor which included lots of small stones. We worked as an assembly line to make the concrete and pass it to the construction workers, as they deftly threw it onto the ground to magically create a floor. Only when we were working for ourselves did we realize how incredible these men truly were are at their jobs! They made everything look so easy!

Towards the end of the trip, I got very attached to a particular wall. One of the construction workers and I had been working on it all day. This sounds a little crazy but you really do feel an emotional need to complete your wall! And when my wall got too high, I noticed that my fellow builders were hesitant to take my place because it was my wall. I also didn’t want to stop, I wanted to finish my wall but my fear was holding me back. I needed to do something….

First fear: heights. I wanted to complete my wall but I was afraid to go up on the scaffolding. I took a deep breath and climbed the three steps to the top of the scaffolding. When I got to the top, the construction worker asked, “Are you afraid?”

I shakily replied, “No…” This was masked by a slurry of chuckles from the other workers. They weren’t trying to be hurtful, they just didn’t understand my fear because this was what they did for a living day in and day out.

Luckily, I had some extremely supportive fellow builders who knew how afraid I was. Some of them gathered around and helped me from the other side of the wall, passing me bricks and concrete while offering words of encouragement and a distraction from my obvious terrors. My hands were shaking, I started to get a little dizzy, but I kept on building and eventually finished the last three rows. I did it! Coming down, the construction worker I was working with jumped in front of me and he, along with Mrs. Gilbertson, helped me down off the platform. He patted me on the back, smiled and said I did a good job.

I know I only climbed three steps and was only about seven feet in the air but I was honestly afraid. No one criticized me for it. Even the men who were laughing at me when I first climbed up the scaffolding congratulated me on a job well done. I overcame my fear and was proud not only of that accomplishment, but also of my fully-finished wall.

Second fear: fear of weakness. In our society, we are often told that we can’t do things because we physically can’t, mentally can’t, or because it’s “just wrong.” But on this trip, from the moment we began, no one made us feel like we couldn’t do something. In fact, it was implied that we either knew how to do it or would pick it up very quickly. We were assigned jobs based on who was standing where and who wanted to do what. We alternated jobs easily because no one bothered asking, “What can you do?”

This attitude allowed all of us to grow. When you are told you can’t do something, then that becomes the foundation of your actions and thoughts. But if you are told, “Here is a shovel, mix this cement,” you will take the shovel and mix the cement! This took off the pressure and allowed us to be more attentive to our tasks at hand. Because of this, we were able to see when someone looked tired so we could switch out jobs periodically. This is how we became a team! We had all experienced the pains of standing in the front of the line when picking up bricks and could recognize when it was time to lend a hand. Although I was afraid that I wasn’t strong enough to do every job, seeing others take on those jobs combined with having no one tell me I “couldn’t” paved the way for my own participation and personal success. I learned that as a team, you will never lack in strength.

Third fear: fear of abandonment. As one of two seniors on the trip, I was afraid I would be the “odd one out.” Thankfully this was not the case. To travel anywhere, we had a bit of a drive in little buses. There were three buses. In my bus, there were three sophomores, two juniors, Mrs. Gilbertson, and me. For the first couple rides, we didn’t really speak to each other, except for our own little groups. The three sophomores were friends, the two juniors were friends, and I’ll admit, Mrs. Gilbertson is one of my best friends. This was comfortable.

But on the third day, when we were getting into the bus after a hard day’s work, I worked up the courage to ask, “Do you guys want to play a game?” To my surprise, they were all keen on playing.

The game was called “Categories” and, easily enough, someone would call out a category such as “Most Embarrassing Moment,” or “Favourite Moment”. Everyone would then take turns sharing their personal stories. After the first day, we were already closer and knew so much more about each other. We consoled one another about sad memories, laughed extremely hard at the each other’s stories, and had giant group hugs when we got off the bus. It was so nice to bond with some of my club-mates.

Fear of abandonment was my favorite fear I conquered, as eliminating this fear really goes to show how these trips bring people together. I now have 22 new people to smile and hug in the hallways!


The entire build team, including the skilled labourers, the caterer and the family.

Finally, my fourth fear: the fear of an inability to make a change. What is change? Well, to be simple, it is making a difference, however slight, from something’s original state. When we went to the site on the first day, there wasn’t even a floor, and when we left, every wall and the floors throughout the entire house were completed! Being a kid makes the world feel small sometimes, and when you fly across the ocean to a new land, with people you don’t really know how to receive more people you don’t really know… you feel really small, but at the end of each day, we took a picture to show the progress we had made on our little house. And, day by day, we saw the walls grow along with the smiles of the fellow builders and homeowners. And you know what? I didn’t feel so small anymore! I felt like I was a part of something bigger.

We only played a part in building one house, for only one family, in only one country, but it was a step. And it was a step in the right direction. Habitat for Humanity is all about that first step that always leaves us wanting to come back for more. On our second day, we were a part of World Youth Leadership Day, which was a momentous occasion involving 800 different H4H builds all around the world-- and if that’s not a change, I don’t know what is.

Thank you, Habitat for Humanity. You’ve taken me to new heights, made me strong, held my hand, and changed my life. These four years will always be in my heart and helped make me who I am today.


Published in ISS NewsLinks: Volume XXXII Number 1

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