Category Archives: The Americas

Bahia, Brazil (November 2018)

This team is now fully recruited!  We are excited to partner with Habitat for Humanity Brazil and help bring strength, stability and independence to a family in need of a decent place to live.

We will work beside local masons and neighbors to provide safe, affordable housing for families in Brazil.  We’ll be working on a project called “The Future Begins at Home”, which has a goal of guaranteeing that children and youths in socially vulnerable situations have a more adequate home to live in so as to lower the occurrence of disease, improve their performance in school and favor their full development as citizens who can enjoy a future with more opportunities. We’ll be working in the state of Bahia in a community called Vila Esperança (Village of Hope). This community could not have a more appropriate name. There are around 200 families living in Vila Esperança and every single house is in precarious conditions. Many families don’t have bathrooms in their homes. Most houses have dirt floors, deteriorated walls and few windows. The community is not paved and there is a train track that goes straight through the community with no gates to prevent children from running onto the tracks. Families in Vila Esperança earn an average of R$720 reais per month (approx. US$180) and are primarily headed by single women. But even with all of the struggles that these people go through, they still have so much strength, perseverance, joy and expectations for the future.

As we build with the family, we’ll be welcomed into the community, eat traditional food and meet the neighbors whose community you’re helping to improve. Our work will have a lasting impact as Habitat will continue to support the families through workshops and trainings after the team returns home.

General Itinerary

  • Saturday: Depart. Grab your packed bags and head for Brazil!
  • Sunday: Arrive. Join us in Brazil where you’ll be greeted at the airport by Habitat staff. After meeting the other volunteers on your team, you’ll spend the afternoon together. Over dinner, Habitat Brazil staff will share about their innovative work in the region and as well as more information on the week’s project.
  • Monday-Thursday: Build. Your team will build with local, skilled construction workers. After work, the team will have time for excursions, rest and to reflect on the day’s experiences with the rest of the team at dinner. On Wednesday you’ll visit a local school and learn more about the community.
  • Friday: Celebrate. Enjoy your final day of building with partner families before the dedication ceremony.
  • Saturday: Explore. Spend the final day exploring the beauty of Brazil with a visit to local sites. Close out the trip by reflecting on the week’s experiences over dinner with your team.
  • Sunday: Goodbyes. Depart for home or continue your journey in Brazil independently.

More About The Housing Need in Brazil

The housing figures in Brazil are staggering: About 26 million people living in urban areas do not have access to water; 14 million are not served by a trash collection service; and 83 million are not connected to sewage systems. The national housing deficit has been estimated at 7.2 million units. Even more alarming, the number of existing vacant properties has been estimated at 5.5 million.

Habitat for Humanity Brazil is working in more than 12 cities in three Brazilian states. For the past 20 years, Habitat has supported several initiatives, in addition to traditional home construction. In the city of Guaruja, Habitat is building a housing settlement for families living precariously on the banks of the Acarau River, without sewage, garbage collection or basic services. In Varjada, Habitat is training families in financial literacy, self-help construction and home improvement.

More About Habitat for Humanity

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 has grown from a grassroots effort that began on a community farm in southern Georgia in 1976 to a global nonprofit housing organization in nearly 1,400 communities across the U.S. and in over 70 countries. People 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.

Looking back on a great year…

It’s only a few days into 2018 and already I’m in full swing:  planning, organizing, scheming and plotting.  Haha, so many fun things coming up soon!  But before I get caught up in what’s next, I find myself looking back and thinking “WOW”.  2017 brought so many truly special moments.  Many of them were centered around my volunteer travels and none of them would have been possible without so many wonderful supporters.  Let me say that again to make sure it’s clear.  I couldn’t do any of this without YOU! 🙂

In 2017, I was fortunate enough to build homes with Habitat for Humanity Global Village teams in China, Mexico and Cambodia.  I worked with over 40 volunteers to help 3 families build safe and secure homes.  And along the way, more than 20 donors and supporters helped me to raise over $3000 to further this mission – thank you!  Truly amazing numbers.  But the numbers tell only part of the story.  It’s the special moments on these trips are what really get you.

In each location, the families, teams, building techniques and culture were extremely different.  We never knew what to expect until we arrived.  And I can honestly say that none of the trips were what I imagined as I was planning for them – they were all much better. 🙂

In China, our team of 8 volunteers worked with Mr. Long as he built a home for his multi-generational family.  Soon 13 people will be living safely here all under one roof!  You can read more about our trip to China here and see some photos of our work here.

 

In Mexico, a large team of 18 volunteers worked with Margarita – a widow who lives with her 3 daughters, 2 sons and daughter-in-law.  After her husband passed away, Margarita had to take on all of the household duties.  Life is challenging but she never complains – in fact, quite the opposite.  Margarita shared her smile with us daily and after we left, she said that she was still “dreaming about the work that was done and all the faces of the people that helped.”

    

The Big Build in Cambodia was a whirlwind of activity (read more here) and at the future homes of Sopheap and Sophary, you could feel the excitement.  Our team of 18 volunteers helped raise the walls of their homes and were inspired by their stories and outlook on life.

    

2018 will take me to many new places including (Vietnam, Jordan and Brazil) and I continue to be grateful for your support.  To those of you who have traveled around the world with me, thank you for the investment you’ve made!  But you don’t have to join a team to participate.  Whether it be a ride to the airport, a gift of tangible items or monetary donations to share with families around the world or even a message of encouragement, your involvement in this mission is paramount to it’s success and I am so thankful to have you on this journey with me.  Continue to ask questions, I love to talk about the trips!  If you want to be more involved, let me know and I’ll give you a slideshow – we can share the word together!  And remember, when you are ready – there’s always room for you on the next trip. 🙂

Just in case you’ve gotten all the way through this post and these words move you…I’m currently fundraising to help families in Brazil, Jordan and Vietnam .  Click on the country of your choice to access my fundraising page or let me know if you’d like to send any donations of clothing or other supplies. 🙂  Thanks in advance!

Chiapas, Mexico (July 2017)

My team to Chiapas is now full!  Below is the information from the “official” trip flyer to give you an idea of what we will be doing.  If you are able and interested in financially supporting this trip, all donations are welcome through my fundraising page – tax deductible! 🙂

Build with indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico, where families need a hand up to improve their shelter situation.

Join this team and stay in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, one of Mexico’s best preserved Spanish colonial towns. The setting is beautiful, but 76 percent of the indigenous people there live in poverty. Your team will build decent, sturdy homes using cement blocks.

This community does not often encounter outsiders, so the build will be a great opportunity to see inside of a unique culture. Our volunteers will learn as much as we contribute and strive for a true person-to-person exchange.

Trip highlights

  • Build with and learn from indigenous families.
  • Visit Mexico with Habitat’s local staff, who carefully plans the trip to maximize volunteer safety.

Global Village sends volunteers to build with Habitat for Humanity projects across the world. Get your hands dirty on the work site, meet families whose housing situations have been improved with Habitat’s help, experience the country like an insider and do it all alongside a team of like-minded volunteers. No experience is required! This build is your next step with Habitat to make the world a better place.

Program donation and fundraising

US$1,940

About half  of the trip cost is a direct contribution to Habitat’s work, and the rest covers your volunteer experience.

You may fundraise or give the program donation. Fundraising is as easy as telling your friends, family and co-workers about why you build with Habitat for Humanity. They may even ask to join the team! We set you up with a great website and coaching for success. Volunteers are encouraged to set a fundraising goal over the minimum. Every donation you raise keeps Habitat building after your team returns home and helps us serve another family.

Itinerary

  • Day 1, Arrive. Fly into the Chiapas airport, where Habitat for Humanity staff welcomes you and takes you to your hotel. Get to know your team over dinner.
  • Day 2, Orientation. Learn about Habitat’s innovative work and your team’s project.
  • Days 3-7, Build. Skilled construction workers will guide you and your team as you build. The team will have time for excursions, rest and reflection meetings in the evenings. Cultural activities will be mixed in along with a farewell ceremony on Friday.
  • Day 8, Explore. Free day for you to soak up more of the beautiful region. We’ll have suggestions for the team, or you can opt to do your own thing. At the final team dinner, reflect on your experience and what it means.
  • Day 9, Goodbyes. Depart for home or independently continue your travels in Latin America.

Your safety in Mexico

Habitat for Humanity’s first priority for volunteers is safety. We send volunteers only to locations where we have confidence that the team’s build site, accommodations and transportation are secure. Contact the team leader if you have questions about security during a Global Village trip.

Meals and accommodations

The team will stay in modest, comfortable hotels in double-occupancy rooms. Lunch will be on the build site, while breakfast and dinner will be a variety of cuisines prepared by locals.

Tasks on the work site

Volunteers will have the opportunity to assist in different stages of the home construction process.  Therefore, typical work may include carrying bricks, mixing cement, moving and compacting dirt, and of course, stacking and cementing bricks for the assembly of the houses. Tasks will be assigned and supervised by expert construction workers.

What’s next?

Apply now.

We will connect you with a team leader within two business days. The team leader will tell you more about the build and learn about you. After speaking with the team leader, donate or fundraise your deposit to secure your spot on the team. The team leader will help you prepare and lead you during the trip.

Contact this team’s leader

Ready to join the team? Have questions? Tricia Vos will lead this team in the field and would love to speak with you.

When asked about previous Global Village experiences, Tricia said, “On a build in Kyrgyzstan, I had nine first-time volunteers on the team. To watch them come together as a group and fully embrace the experience was incredible! Even now, several years later, teammates keep in touch and recall their experiences in the community with incredible fondness. To me this is what Global Village is all about – bringing together a diverse group of people for a common purpose, making new friends and helping a family to whom you will be forever tied. Join us, it’ll be an experience to remember.

Update: Gloria’s family is home!

Hola!  In January, I participated in a volunteer team with Habitat for Humanity‘s Global Village program in Nicaragua.  You may have read about that trip in my previous post. 🙂  Well, if you’ve been wondering…this family has recently moved into their new home.  How fantastic!

When we arrived in San Ceyatano, Nicaragua, our team found Gloria (27 ) living with her husband Fredy (28) and their daughter Ashly (age 6) in a one-room metal structure with a dirt floor, which turns to mud when it rains due to holes in the roof and walls. Fredy works as a mason earning about US$110 monthly to support their family.  Neither Gloria nor Fredy were able to continue their schooling after high school.  Gloria is suffering from an extreme kidney infection, while Fredy has chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness. Their daughter, Ashly, is in her first year of primary school but often misses class because of illnesses due to the poor conditions of the home.

Over the course of one week, our team of volunteers built a safe and durable home for this family.  When we left Nicaragua, local masons were hired to complete the floor and roof.  Now we’ve received word that their home is complete!  Below are some photos – the smiles say everything.

Gloria_1 Gloria_2 Gloria_3

Thanks to everyone who participated in this project in any way – team members, supporters who made donations or sent positive thoughts, and Habitat for Humanity who enabled this work.  Stay tuned for the next chapter and contact me if you’d like to be a part of a future team!

 

 

 

Telica – One of Nicaragua’s Most Active Volcanoes

A few weeks ago I traveled to Nicaragua to combine some tourism with a Habitat for Humanity volunteer build.  I’ve been working on a few stories from that trip when suddenly today my inbox was bursting with “breaking news” – the Telica Volcano has erupted!  Wow, really?  I was just there – right on the edge – 2 weeks ago….  Here’s what it was like before the latest eruption. 🙂

Telica is located near León and is a pretty accessible volcano for hikers.  It’s “only” 1061 meters high and if you make the rocky trek, you are rewarded with upfront views of the magnificent 700m wide double crater.  Even though it was not the most physically demanding hike, it truly has some of the most incredible views I’ve seen in a while!  Perhaps my favorite day in Nicaragua.

Getting to Telica is possible on your own, but for $35USD it’s pretty easy to let someone else worry about the rough road and take you right to the base of the volcano.  Is that lazy?  I think it’s smart. 🙂

We went on a sunset tour with Julio Tours and couldn’t have been happier.  When we arrived, just 2 other small groups were at the base and we quickly set off to get a bit of a head start.  Here’s the view as you get ready for the climb (it doesn’t look like much…):

DSC_0014On the way up, there are some views of the valley but nothing that I would describe as spectacular.  Plus, we were mostly looking at our feet to make sure we had secure footing.  And keeping our mouths closed to avoid getting big gulp-fulls of the sulfurous air!

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But OHHHHHHHH when you get near the top!

IMG_9754Now that’s what I call awesome.

DSC_0037You can get right up to the edge of the crater  and check out what’s going on 120m below – no railings, no safety waivers…

DSC_0042 DSC_0045IMG_9745Who could resist taking some selfies here?! 🙂

DSC_0036 (1)We hung out up top for maybe 10-15 minutes but the sulfur was pretty strong so we headed down around the back of the crater to catch some views of the entire range before the sunset.

IMG_9762We stopped for a break…luckily a local entrepreneur schlepped up the volcano (in flip flops, of course) with a cooler of soda and beer to complement the salty snacks we had in our packs.  When it was time for the sunset, it was quick but  beautiful:

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And then….darkness fell fast.  We trekked back up through the sulfur clouds to catch a quick peek at the magma (see it there, those little dots? 🙂 ):

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And then we hiked down…in the dark…  Bring a headlamp or hire a guide that provides flashlights, you’ll need them.  You can also camp below the rim if that’s your thing.  But whatever you do, just go.  You don’t want to miss this!