It’s Volunteers’ Week and our theme for this year is Habitat Heroes! To celebrate, we asked a few of our top return volunteers why they love volunteering with us and why they keep on coming back. The first story we’ll be sharing is James’…let’s find out about his Habitat volunteering experience.
When and why did you first sign up to a Build?
I was first persuaded to sign up for a Build by a close friend Andy Clark who is a team leader, back in 2015. Following that, myself and two work colleagues signed up for our first build in the autumn of 2016 to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
This was a fantastic trip with a team of 12 building a timber house on stilts. Nothing had prepared me for intense heat and humidity but the finished house was superb and we all took great pride in putting our hand prints on one of the floor beams to leave a memory for homeowners.
My first build experience was daunting but exciting.
You arrive at the airport in Habitat t-shirt as strangers, but through the shared experiences and emotions leave as great friends.
The first house handover in Cambodia that I experienced was very memorable. The homeowner was so emotionally overwhelmed he couldn’t speak. This truly brought home to me the impact and importance of what a group of 12 people can achieve with help and support of Habitat for Humanity and the lasting legacy that we can leave behind.
And then you came back for more!
In October 2017, I joined a build to Birtamode in Nepal, where we worked on four houses. They had concrete foundations and mud floors with the house frame and wall panels all formed from bamboo. Many hours were spent in the hot sun splitting and preparing the bamboo to be woven into panels fixed to the frame and then mud rendered to finish.
Then in October 2018 I took part in my third build to Recife in Brazil. This was another completely different experience, working within the Favela’s we were split into five smaller teams, and I was fortunate to given the opportunity to lead a group in the renovation of one property.
Our works with two local skilled workers involved the complete removal of existing tiled roof, raising the walls, and fitting new roof timbers and a cement board roof. We also installed new windows, doors and installation of conduits for electrics. Although we didn’t fully finish the house (we weren’t expected to) the work we completed ensured that the skilled workers were able to stay on and finish the houses in the two weeks after our trip.
What would your advice be for a first time volunteer?
Embrace every opportunity you are given, never be afraid to ask a question, there are no stupid questions. Get stuck in, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the delight and happiness in the family and wider community from the work we do. It will truly put in perspective just how fortunate we are to live in the home environment that we have. Oh and stick to the kit list, anything else will just be excess baggage.
If I could summarise my most recent Build in three words then they would be; humbling, rewarding, and friendship.
Thank you James!
James has already signed up for another Build in 2020, and we’re really looking forward to working with him again. Check out the other return volunteers’ blog posts and follow us on social media for more updates throughout Volunteers’ Week.
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