Category Archives: Habitat for Humanity

Time to recommit…

Oh. My. Goodness.  How can 6 months have passed since my last post?  I’ve had so many amazing and wonderful adventures…I guess I just get caught up in experiencing the moment rather than writing about it. Forgive me – stories to follow, I promise. ūüôā

It’s time to make some changes, starting with this unplanned, in the moment post!  I can’t think of a more appropriate time …let me explain.

I am currently spending my last night (on this trip!) in Americus, Georgia. Where’s that?  Yeah…you’ll need to check the map. ūüôā  Americus is a quiet but lovely town in southwestern Georgia. Look!

I arrived over a week ago right ahead of Hurricane Irma (it literally started raining as I unpacked the car…). I have spent the past week at the headquarters of Habitat for Humanity.  It’s been fantastic!

During the first few days, I spent time in the office with some great people preparing for the big moment… On Thursday, the event started!  This was the first of several  sessions where Habitat for Humanity Global Village Volunteer Team leaders are coming together to meet, talk, learn, share and recommit to serving the mission of this organization.  We were given an extra special reception at the historic Rylander Theatre downtown:

On that first night, the initial 17 team leaders to attend recertification training got to know each other and learn more about the roots of Habitat. We were treated to a special showing of “Briars in the Cotton Patch” – a movie describing the roots of Habitat set in the Civil Rights era. I had no idea…definitely worth a watch., look for it

Over the next two days, we attended talks that ranged in content but had the overall impact of bringing this group of individuals together as one cohesive unit with a common goal.  I feel so privileged to be a part of this crowd!  And it is reaffirming in a multitude of ways

So this day seems fitting to kick off a renewed commitment to posting updates, as I am reenergized about the future and my renewed commitment.  I can’t wait to be the best I can be, to serve to the best of my ability, and to make the most of every moment that life grants me.

Thanks for joining me on the journey and having faith. Our best is yet to come. ‚̧ԳŹ

Battambang, Cambodia (November 2017)

In November 2017, 250+ volunteers will join together to¬† build 29 homes during Habitat for Humanity‘s BIG BUILD in Cambodia! ¬†Read on for more information about the project. ¬†Details on the need for housing in Cambodia and how volunteers and donors can help are below!

Housing Need in Cambodia

While poverty has decreased significantly in recent years, many Cambodian families are hovering only just above the poverty line of¬†US$1.25 per day. ¬†Nearly three quarters of Cambodia‚Äôs population was still living on less than US$3 a day in 2011, according to the World ¬†Bank. ¬†Poverty is largely concentrated in the rural areas though urban poverty may be rising. ¬†Habitat for Humanity Cambodia seeks to break the cycle of poverty through safe, durable, affordable housing solutions and innovations. ¬†Since 2003, HFH Cambodia has enabled more than 18,000 families to build strength, stability and self‚Äźreliance through innovative housing and human settlements interventions.

The BIG BUILD!

Once per year, Habitat for Humanity sponsors a “Big Build”, focusing the¬†efforts of a large number of volunteers on one location. ¬†For 2017’s special¬†build, approximately 200 volunteers will join HFH Cambodia for one week in Battambang Province to build at least 15 safe, quality and affordable houses with home partner families. ¬†Battambang is located in the northwestern part of Cambodia, approximately 300 km from Phnom Penh. ¬†This city has 14 Districts, 102 communes and 799 villages, with approximately 235,000¬†households and a total population of¬†just over 1 million.

The 15 houses will be built during this effort primarily using Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB), a building material that is made mainly from damp soil compressed at high pressure to form blocks. The CEB technology has¬† been developed for low‚Äźcost construction,¬† as an alternative to adobe to promote the use of eco‚Äźfriendly construction materials within communities.

Government approved design of Compressed Earth Block homes
Compressed Earth Block production
Completed home from Compressed Earth Blocks

 

This post contains information provided by Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity Cambodia.  Their help and support is much appreciated.

A Home for the Long Family

In February I had the opportunity to lead a team of 9 volunteers on a one week Global Village build with Habitat for Humanity in Yunnan Province, China.¬† What a fantastic experience!¬† Everything about this trip ‚Äď the location, the culture, the team, the community, the food ‚Äď was so much more than I expected.¬† I‚Äôm excited to introduce you to Mr. Long and his family, who we worked side by side with for 5 days.

Mr. Long belongs to the Miao minority¬†and has lived in Yunnan Province for his entire life.¬† Being the youngest son in the family (he has 4 older sisters and 1 older brother), it is his responsibility to care for his parents as they age.¬† Living in his household are his parents, his wife, and their three children.¬† Soon his wife‚Äôs parents will also come to live with the family.¬† The house where they have been living contains just 4 rooms: ¬†a kitchen, an attic storage area, a dedicated bedroom and a combo living room/bedroom. ¬†The house has been deemed ‚Äúuninhabitable‚ÄĚ by the government due to its age and the fact that it sustained severe damage in an earthquake a few years ago.

   

   

   

Photos of the Long Family’s current home. Clockwise from top left: the outside of the house (2), the attic storage and drying area, the living room/main bedroom, the second bedroom, the living room/main bedroom, the kitchen.

The family was able to build a temporary home, but they could only afford a small, 3-room basic structure.  There is no steel reinforcement within the walls and the home is built of hollow bricks, which will collapse easily in the case of another earthquake.  For these reasons, the government has also deemed this house unsuitable for permanent residence.

   

Take a minute to imagine, really picture in your mind, living in such conditions as a family of 9…  There is no security or safety for you or your belongings, no privacy, limited conveniences (intermittent electricity, no running water or indoor bathrooms)…and the prospect of another earthquake which could destroy your home is ever present.

Habitat for Humanity China provides help to low/middle income families throughout several provinces. ¬†There are government programs to help the poorest of the poor in China, so the families that HFH China helps have stable jobs and can afford to make small payments on their home, but need a little extra help. ¬†I chose to take this trip to Yunnan because it offers an excellent cultural immersion.¬† I actually had no idea what I was getting into!¬† In a good way, of course. ūüôā

Our team arrived in Kunming and traveled by bus to a small town called Gaoqiao. The guesthouse was basic‚Ķincluding squat toilets‚Ķand special rules? ūüôā ¬†This would be our home for the next week and we ate well in town, but our work was in an even more rural location.

   

Each day, we set out by bus for 30 minutes and then on foot for a 45 minute hike to reach Mr Long and his family.  The hike was no walk in the park, with an up and down path and overall elevation gain of almost 1000 feet over one mile!  The setting was beautiful though so in between gasping for air we all enjoyed the scenery.

   

When we first arrived, we found our project already started.  Mr. Long and his community had already completed the first floor (3 rooms) of the new home!

Our tasks for the next 5 days were to pour a porch on the first level and begin building the walls upstairs.  This meant lots of mixing of concrete and mortar, moving materials, and laying bricks!  On the first day, we mixed concrete (with an actual mixer Рa luxury on a build like this!) and poured the porch floor.

      

Everyday, Mrs. Long and other members of the community prepared a delicious home cooked meal for us at lunchtime. ¬†What a treat! ¬†Chopstick skills required. ūüôā

   

For the next 4 days, we sifted sand, carried countless buckets of sifted sand and water upstairs, mixed mortar by hand and laid bricks to build up the walls.

   

        

The family worked with us everyday – they were unstoppable and their pride in their new home was obvious. ¬†Even before we arrived, the 7-year old daughter in the family could not wait to enjoy her new home! ¬†‚ÄúThough the windows and doors on the first floor weren‚Äôt installed, she took a straw mat and quilt to the new house and slept there alone. So happy was she in these days.‚ÄĚ says Mr. Long. ¬†Decent and safe housing not only means an¬†improvement of living environment, but also means self-confidence and hope.

   

On the last day, rain prevented us from continuing our work but it could not dampen our spirits.  We joined together with the family for a memorable lunch and celebration, wishing each other well in the future and congratulating everyone on the progress.  Our celebration started with an indoor BBQ Рyet another fabulous meal.

   

Mr. Long is an active member of his church and a quartet performed several songs for us to kick off the official farewell ceremony!

He also gave a short speech which left not a dry eye in the audience.  We all received certificates from Jerry, the staff coordinator of HFH China, and said our goodbyes after a typical Chinese fireworks display!

We made great progress in the week and the Long Family hopes to complete their home and move in before the summer.

Reflecting on our week with this family, I know that we made a huge impact on the¬†lives of the Long family.¬† However, I would argue that they made an even greater impact on mine.¬† Thank you, Long family, for your friendship and hard work.¬† You welcomed us into your community and your family –¬†for that we will be forever grateful.¬†‚̧ԳŹÔłŹ

For more photos from this build, check out my photo album!

This post contains some facts and quotes shared with me by Habitat for Humanity China.  Their help and support is appreciated.

 

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! ūüôā

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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs innovative work and your team‚Äôs 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‚Äôll 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, ‚ÄúOn 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôll be an experience to remember.

Yunnan Province, China (February 2017)

What a fantastic experience!¬† I’ve been to China several times, but never this far out in the rural area.¬† Working for one week with a fabulous team, a wonderful staff, and a family who was so kind and generous brings with it a whole new perspective on this great country.¬† Please check out some recaps of our trip in this blog post:¬†¬†A Home for the Long Family

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s work in China through the Global Village program¬†and beyond, please visit the Habitat for Humanity China homepage.¬† Additional information about the housing need in China is also included below.¬† Thanks for your support!

Housing Need

Over the past three decades, living standards have dramatically improved for many of China’s more than 1.4 billion residents, but inequality has also sharply increased. About 150 million Chinese still live on less than $1 a day. Many of the poor lack access to affordable housing, shut out by soaring land and house prices.

Established in 2000, Habitat for Humanity China was galvanized by the devastating May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. To date, Habitat China has built homes and assisted nearly 1,000 families in half a dozen Sichuan communities, including many built during the 2009 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Habitat China has also worked in partnership with Leprosy Mission International to improve homes for people afflicted with leprosy.

China has hosted Global Village trips from 12 countries. Your donation to a Global Village trip supports Habitat’s mission of building simple, decent, affordable housing in China.

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.

This post contains information provided by Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity China.  Their help and support is much appreciated.