Habitat for Humanity

There isn’t a better way to travel around the world with a purpose than by volunteering! In this series on alternative tourism we are covering popular international volunteer programs for youth to participate in. If you feel that you’re ready to share knowledge with others, learn new skills, and boost your life experience, read on! In this article we will talk about Habitat for Humanity, an organization that helps people in need by building affordable and safe housing.

About the Organization

Habitat for Humanity is a global, nonprofit housing organization. It works in nearly 1,400 communities across the United States and in about 70 countries around the world. Habitat’s vision is of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Habitat for Humanity helps people in need to build, repair, and renovate homes. The future homeowners work alongside the volunteers and get an affordable mortgage. They help make buildings more energy efficient, provide water and sanitation solutions, mitigate the effects of disasters, and support housing microfinance loans.

There are many ways to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. The opportunities include local and international volunteering, long-term and short-term trips, group volunteering, and volunteering as part of a special event.


Local Volunteering

Habitat for Humanity in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa works in more than 30 countries through national organizations and partners. If you’d like to learn more about volunteer opportunities in a specific country, use the search menu for the EMEA region, and you will be taken to a page dedicated to the country of your choosing. The information presented includes contact information for the local office, country facts, and volunteer projects available in the country.

For example, available programs in Armenia include microfinance projects, residential renovations, and energy upgrades. These programs help families receive loans from financial institutions to improve their living conditions and improve energy efficiency in collaboration with municipalities. HFH in Northern Ireland international partnerships support Habitat’s everyday work in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Malawi, and Romania and focus on peace building, disaster response, mitigation, and vulnerable groups. Locally oriented Habitat ReStores operates low-cost, do-it-yourself stores that sell donated new and used building supplies at a fraction of the usual market cost. National organizations for the EMEA region have offices in the following countries:

Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cote d’ Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malawi, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

To connect communities from around the world, HFH runs a volunteer program that spans 40 countries called Global Village. Volunteers work under expert supervision together with local volunteers and future homeowners.


Short-term International Volunteering

A Global Village trip is a short-term service trip where you can volunteer abroad or in your home country with Habitat for Humanity. All trips vary based on the country and itinerary, but all of them include a mix of work, rest, and free time. As a Global Village volunteer, you will increase your cross-cultural understanding and discover how to become a long-term advocate for affordable housing. To register, complete a short application with basic information and connect with your team leader to learn more about the trip. To secure your spot on the team, you will need to donate or fundraise your deposit. Trip costs range between $1650 – $2500. Fees include a donation to the host community’s Habitat program, in-country transportation, food, accommodations, select activities, and travel medical insurance.

House Construction Site
House Construction Site

To provide funds for your trip, you will have access to a peer-to-peer fundraising website that will make sharing your story with others simple and impactful. Additionally, HFH has created a fundraising guide with more ideas for fundraising opportunities. While all Global Village volunteers must be 16 or older, some trips and locations do not allow youth younger than 18 to participate without their legal parent or guardian. Work assignments can involve strenuous physical activity ― sometimes at high altitudes. Team members should be in good physical health when considering a trip. Before planning a trip, consult your physician regarding any required vaccinations.

Long-term International Volunteering

If you are looking to immerse yourself in a project or a country for between three months and one year, consider international trips for individuals. Trips of this length allow individuals to develop a deep understanding of the culture, community, and country where they are volunteering, and they are highly rewarding. We are looking for people with a range of skills, not just in housing or construction. If you would like to take this kind of volunteer trip, please check out our International Volunteer Program page.

HFH provides you with a Habitat volunteer coordinator who will help you choose the right program and place. They will also help you budget, fundraise, and sort out all the other essential things you need to know about safety, security, and health. Additionally, there will be skilled chaperones who will provide online training to help students and schools understand everything there is to know about your project and Habitat’s work.

Construction work varies depending on the trip location, the local construction techniques, and the stage the building program has reached at the time of your trip. You could be digging foundations, mixing concrete or mortar, laying blocks, raising timber frame walls, making window frames, plastering, painting, or landscaping. All projects have first aid trained staff available. Volunteers are insured, and 24/7 assistance is provided. Students can join even if they have no prior experience in building, construction, or other volunteer work.

Internships at HFH

Currently there are two internship positions open to students in the US and abroad: a remote, unpaid U.S. Government relations internship and an onsite, paid Repair construction coordinator in Texas, USA. USG relations interns will help Habitat affiliates across the nation to engage in advocacy, track legislation, and research policy issues. This part-time internship will take place in June – December 2020. It is open to current students or recent graduates with strong writing and interpersonal skills and advocacy or policy experience. Critical repair construction coordinator is open to students willing to assist in preparing project budget and timeline, review subcontractor proposals and contracts, and coordinating constructor partners. An ability to work with people of different cultures and backgrounds and proficiency in MS Office are required.

Construction coordinator examining documents
Construction coordinator examining documents

Over 40+ years of work, Habitat for Humanity has helped millions of people get access to safe housing. Volunteers from around the world are encouraged to join the movement and contribute time and skills to the cause. To find a local organization or a ReStore location as well as available programs in your community, visit the official website.

Photos: Shutterstock / Edited by: Martina Advaney

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