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Building for New Beginnings

Our Global Village Coordinator, Maddy, recently led a team of volunteers in the Philippines. She writes about her experience working on a Typhoon Haiyan reconstruction project.

As a member of the Global Village team, it’s great to be able to help people pursue their interest in volunteering overseas. Occasionally, I’m even lucky enough to get out of the office and accompany a group on the build site as a team leader. While I enjoy hearing stories and seeing photos of teams when they return home, nothing beats being on the ground and enjoying the experience alongside a group of awesome, likeminded people.

In January I travelled with a GV team to Bantayan Island in Cebu. Our task was to build new houses for families who had been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which swept through the Philippines in 2013. Speaking to some of the people who lived through it, it was clear that Haiyan had a devastating effect on shelter, livelihoods and industry in the region. The families for whom we would be building were living in temporary housing, and the team was keen to arrive on site and help in any way they could.

Our group of eighteen was diverse, with an age range from 15 to 75. Friendships were formed quickly and became even stronger as we worked together on the build site all week. We mixed cement, shovelled and carried countless bags of sand and laid row upon row of mortar and cement blocks. We mastered the art of passing blocks in a fifty metre long production line – a feat of good communication and teamwork.

This was not a standard Global Village build, where a team works on one house with one partner family and finishes it in a week. Instead we worked with an entire community and built across ten houses. There was something nice about working in this way, spreading our handiwork across a number of new homes. We may not have had a finished product at the end, but we were encouraged to learn that a team from Habitat South Korea would be picking up where we left off the following week. On our last day, we celebrated with the local community and skilled labourers who had worked alongside us every day. We shared a traditional lunch, played games with the children and shared our gratitude for the hospitality we had been shown. It was a great way to cap off an amazing week.

Bantayan is a beautiful destination, and quite unlike any of the other places we send volunteers. Being off the beaten tourist track, it took a four hour bus trip and a ferry ride to get there. It was well worth the trip, though. We arrived to a beautiful stretch of beach, and raced back to enjoy it every afternoon. After a day working hard in the sun, a swim in the ocean was a welcome treat. Stumbling upon a local talent show in town one evening was a personal highlight of mine, and a nice insight into the community and culture. Hopefully I will be back there before too long, and will be able to experience it all again.

If you’re considering joining a team, it’s not too late to register for our Island Reconstruction Build in March. Read more about it here.

Volunteers, Eva and Martha, lay hollow blocks on the build site

Children playing football on the beach on Bantayan Island

Team members throwing water balloons with children on our last day

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