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Global Village is Changing Lives!

A Global Village team builds in Cambodia, 2011.  Photo credit:  Phil Riner
A Global Village team builds in Cambodia, 2011. Photo credit: Phil Riner

What is Global Village?

Global Village (GV) is the short-term, international volunteer program with Habitat for Humanity.  There are dozens of trips all over the world throughout the year, with each trip lasting 9-15 days, including travel time.  Every participant is a volunteer, and has the goal of giving back and continuing Habitat's vision where "everyone has a decent place to live."  Volunteers range in age from 16-85+ and come from all socioeconomic backgrounds--students, doctors, stay-at-home parents, executives...the list goes on.  Most importantly, NO CONSTRUCTION EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE!

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A Global Village team builds in Mongolia, 2011.  Photo credit:  Phil Riner
A Global Village team builds in Mongolia, 2011. Photo credit: Phil Riner

What can I expect?

After you select a destination where you'd like to build, you'll submit an application and have a phone interview with the team leader for that trip.  He or she will be able to answer any of your questions, and will be there for you up to, during, and after the trip to help make this the most rewarding experience of your life.  Your team leader will help you with fundraising, as well as take care of all the arrangements from the moment you land in the host country until you depart.

Upon arriving in the host country, you'll meet your other teammates and settle in for dinner and a brief orientation program.  The following day you might stay in the capital city and explore, or you might travel to your host community and settle in, have dinner, and get to know everyone better. Accommodations on a GV build can include everything from tents to community centers to dorms to lodges (although the term "lodge" means different things in different parts of the world).  Regardless of where you stay, you'll return home with the experience of a lifetime and stories of your adventure. For instance, when I built in Haiti, we stayed in tents and took cold showers, and in Malawi we stayed at a lodge.  The Malawi build was hit or miss as far as conveniences of home.  Some days the electricity was abruptly shut off, some days there was no hot water, and other days the air conditioning may or may not have worked.  But these things all add up to a great adventure that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

You can expect to spend your days building from about 0800 to 1600 or 1700.  Typical tasks might include mixing mortar, carrying supplies, painting, digging trenches or footers, clearing and leveling a build site, laying bricks, weaving bamboo walls, forming rebar for concrete...there's no typical task on a GV build, and no one is required to do anything they are uncomfortable with. Building styles range from one part of the world to another.  But most people find their niche by the end of the first day.  And besides, never say you can't do something until you've tried!  You'll learn new construction skills on a GV build.  But the most important thing to remember is that no construction experience is required!  Your work site might include a very rural African village that is reminiscent of a National Geographic article, a small village in the Middle East, or a rural or sub/urban area in Asia.

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A Global Village team builds in Nepal, 2011.  Photo credit:  Phil Riner
A Global Village team builds in Nepal, 2011. Photo credit: Phil Riner

The team:

As mentioned above, volunteers come from all walks of life and all over the world.  Everyone has the goal of giving back to help break the cycle of poverty housing. GV teams typically include eight to twenty like-minded individuals.  Your teammates will quickly become best friends and by the end of the first day it's like you've known them your whole life.  Lifelong friendships are forged on GV builds.

Suchir, age 16, and his mother Aparna participate on a Habitat for Humanity build in Jordan.

GV builds are about more than just building houses, however.  Habitat for Humanity stresses cultural immersion, and there is a healthy balance of work and sightseeing or cultural activities.  On longer builds, you might have two days off in the middle of the build for such activities, or they are incorporated into the afternoons/evenings of the shorter builds.   Your team leader will hold regular reflection meetings throughout the build where you'll learn more about poverty around the world and efforts to eradicate it. You'll learn about Habitat's efforts of giving people the tools and resources to lift themselves out of poverty.  And don't forget the food.You'll be able to try local delicacies from around the world, things that you didn't know humans could eat!  The Jordan build includes dinner each night hosted by a local family in their home.  Think about learning about the Arab culture by spending a few hours in someone's home where they put on their best spread and entertain you, as the team and the host family share ideas and experiences of their respective cultures.  You can "tour" parts of the world, but you'll never gain as much as you will on a GV build.

© 2021 Shane Werle