Category Archives: The Americas

Cochabamba, Bolivia (April 2020)

Apply now to join this team if you would like to assist a family to improve their home in Cochabamba, Bolivia! We’ll be working on a project called “We are Waiting for You at Home” which focuses on assisting families with children who are suffering from chronic medical conditions. The goal is to expand and improve existing homes in order to provide a safe, healthy environment for the children to recover and thrive once they return home from the hospital. I was recently in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on the same project and captured a little bit about the experience here. I’m excited to return!

Please read on for more information about the work of Habitat for Humanity Bolivia and if you are so inclined, use this link to financially support this project.

The mountainous South American country of Bolivia has a population of more than 9 million, about 55 percent of whom do not have easy access to safe drinking water or sewage services. Most Bolivian families live in overcrowded homes built with adobe — a mix of clay and straw — with dirt floors. They are highly susceptible to pests, including a bug that transmits an incurable neurological disease, have unstable roofs, and water and sanitation problems.

Habitat for Humanity Bolivia has been building homes since 1985 throughout the country, including in Santa Cruz, a city of more than 1 million people. These brick and concrete homes provide a stable, safe and healthy environment.

About The Global Village Program

Global Village is Habitat for Humanity’s international volunteer program. Teams travel to over 40 countries to work alongside communities, build housing solutions, and experience local culture. Our goal is to change the lives of the people we serve, as well as the lives of the volunteers. To join a team or learn more, visit www.habitat.org/gv.

About Habitat for Humanity International 

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

La Paz, Bolivia (April 2020)

Apply now to join this special “Children’s Day” build in La Paz Bolivia! We’ll be working on a project called “We are Waiting for You at Home” which focuses on assisting families with children who are suffering from chronic medical conditions. The goal is to expand and improve existing homes in order to provide a safe, healthy environment for the children to recover and thrive once they return home from the hospital. I was recently in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on the same project and captured a little bit about the experience here. I’m excited to return!

Please read on for more information about the work of Habitat for Humanity Bolivia and if you are so inclined, use this link to financially support this project.

The mountainous South American country of Bolivia has a population of more than 9 million, about 55 percent of whom do not have easy access to safe drinking water or sewage services. Most Bolivian families live in overcrowded homes built with adobe — a mix of clay and straw — with dirt floors. They are highly susceptible to pests, including a bug that transmits an incurable neurological disease, have unstable roofs, and water and sanitation problems.

Habitat for Humanity Bolivia has been building homes since 1985 throughout the country, including in Santa Cruz, a city of more than 1 million people. These brick and concrete homes provide a stable, safe and healthy environment.

About The Global Village Program

Global Village is Habitat for Humanity’s international volunteer program. Teams travel to over 40 countries to work alongside communities, build housing solutions, and experience local culture. Our goal is to change the lives of the people we serve, as well as the lives of the volunteers. To join a team or learn more, visit www.habitat.org/gv.

About Habitat for Humanity International 

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

Another “First”

When I began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in 2012, it was a fun way to help others, travel, meet new people and get away from the stresses of work. I never could have imagined just how it would change my life! Since that first trip to Eldama Ravine, Kenya SO many volunteering “firsts” have happened for me. Some were significant (like the first time I witnessed and appreciated the real, true, tangible impact of safe, durable shelter on a families life*), some I prefer to forget (the first time I shared an outhouse with 300+ cockroaches!) and some were just plain unexpected (the first time I was offered a mouse kabob). 🙂

It’s now time for another “first” – next week is the first time I’ll be volunteering with a team comprised solely of people to whom I’m related! While I call them all “my cousins”, technically only one of them falls under that title…but it’s close enough to describe how special they all are to me. We are setting off for Sonsonate, El Salvador where we’ll be working as Global Village volunteers for one week with Habitat for Humanity El Salvador.

During the week, we’ll be assisting a family of 3 to build their own home. Carlos has been the owner of a bakery for 4 years. His wife Wendy is in charge of the baking, and Carlos goes out in the area around the community where they live to sell it each day. They are currently renting a house where they live with their 6 year old son Jonathan. We’re going to meet them in a few days and I can’t wait! Here is their photo with their parents.

I’m so grateful for all of the “firsts” that I’ve had the opportunity to experience as a result of volunteering. Thank you for your support and for sharing the joy with me!

* Follow this link to learn about how safe shelter changes lives.

Nayarit, Mexico (March 2019)

A team of volunteers from Cape Cod, Massachusetts joined together to travel to Mexico to help families achieve their dream of owning a safe, durable home in March, 2019.

In Mexico, more than 50 percent of the population live in conditions of poverty, and with 59 percent earning less than three minimum wages per day, many lack the means to buy or build adequate housing. In Nayarit alone, 121,000 people live in poverty and 227,000 don’t have access to electricity, drinkable water or sewer systems.

Since 1989, Habitat for Humanity Mexico has fought poverty through adequate housing, supporting and empowering more than 57,000 families in organized communities.  Despite the progress that has been made in providing housing in recent years, more than 53.3 million people in Mexico do not have the financial means to buy or build adequate housing (45.5%).

Family income has been losing purchasing power: 60.6 million people (51.6%)earn incomes below the welfare line, which are insufficient to acquire the goods and services they require to meet their most basic subsistence needs.  Of this population, 15.9 million people (13.6%) live in homes with dirt floors, roofs made of tin, cardboard or debris, walls made of mud, reeds, palm or sheet; 24.9 million (21.2%) have no access to basic services of potable water, drainage, electricity and fuel for cooking or heating food. In addition, more than 538,000 families live in overcrowded conditions.

Habitat for Humanity Mexico works to combat poverty, supporting low-income families in building their homes; promoting community development through influencing public policies; attracting public and private resources for housing and sensitizing governments, donors and volunteers on the human right to live in adequate housing.

Global Village is Habitat for Humanity’s international volunteer program. Teams travel to over 40 countries to work alongside communities, build housing solutions, and experience local culture. Our goal is to change the lives of the people we serve, as well as the lives of the volunteers.  To join a team or learn more, visit www.habitat.org/gv.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

Same same but different…

In just a month, I’ll be doing one of my favorite things with a couple of new twists.  I’ll be leading a team of Habitat for Humanity Global Village volunteers – this time in Asheville, NC!  That’s right.  A sweet journey of less than 5 hours with only one 45 minute layover will bring me to my next project.  Haha, a far cry from the 16 hour flights I’ve found myself on recently.  No passport required.  No money exchange.  No bungling a foreign language.  I can brush my teeth with water from the sink and eat whatever is offered!  Oh what a relief.  🙂

It seems like a sign that I’ll be taking on this project at a time when the US is sparring with the UN over their recent report that levels of poverty are increasing here at home.  The report – and our response to it – bring their own controversy.  But what rings true in my mind is that our status as a “wealthy, developed nation” does not negate the fact that many of us are in need of assistance.  Yes, I said “us”.  We are in this together.

And eleven of “us” will soon be giving our all to help families in Asheville achieve their dream of home ownership.

This trip has been in the works for more than a year and is special to me for many reasons.  I’m excited to engage with the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement and the Office of Alumni Relations at Franklin & Marshall College to team up with Habitat for Humanity and offer this experience to students, alumni and staff for the first time!  I am passionate about the work of this organization and have wanted to become more involved with my alma mater for quite some time.  I’m thrilled that these things are all coming together!  I’ve also never led a domestic volunteer team and am looking forward to a new experience – including challenging my own assumptions about what “need” looks like.

The Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHFH) does amazing work around Buncombe County, NC.  They’ve worked on more than 450 homes, serving over 1,300 individuals, since they were founded in 1983.  That’s right – we’re talking about Asheville, North Carolina, United States of America.  A hip, vibrant community set amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains which is home to the Biltmore Estate.  A place where you might want to retire someday.  AAHFH builds 20 houses per year here for families in need.  And they can barely scratch the surface.

There is a lack of affordable housing in the area due largely to the fact that many people who live here with their families are employed in jobs which depend on the highly seasonal tourist industry.  The discrepancy between the wages of hospitality workers and the cost of living in the area is becoming insurmountable for many.  Of the top 20 occupations in Buncombe County, 9 are insufficient to afford appropriate, fair market rental housing.  In 2016, 23.3% of children in Buncombe County lived below the poverty line.

Our team will be working with several families, since AAHFH usually has about 6 projects ongoing simultaneously.  We have information on two of those families and when reading their stories, the reality of the situation becomes obvious.  Shaketia is a teacher and has two children.  When her lease was due for renewal, she was unable to afford the significant increase in rent and was forced to move in with her mother.  She now shares a twin bed with her daughter while her son sleeps on the floor.  Mary has been driving a school bus for 10 years and has four children.  Her landlord decided to sell affordable rental home they had been living in for 8 years and she was forced to find a new home for her family.  Her only option was to lease a small 3 bedroom apartment for the 5 of them.

Stories like those of Shaketia and Mary are far too common. Many of us may be fortunate enough to have not experienced this type of hardship, but we only need look to see those important qualities that we share.  They are good people, hard working, striving to support their families and raise their children as best they can.  When times got tough, they did what they had to and kept a positive outlook.  Sounds familiar?  Yes, to me too.

Our work in Asheville will be a time of learning, sharing, hard work and, yes, love.  The lives of these families will be changed forever and I’m lucky to be able to be a part of this experience.  I’m excited for the journey.

*If you would like to make a financial contribution toward the work of Habitat for Humanity and help families like those of Shaketia and Mary, please use this link.  Every dollar counts!

**This post contains statements and images provided by AAHFH.  Their collaboration and support is appreciated.