My name’s Dan and I work at Habitat for Humanity Australia. Recently I was lucky enough to take a team of volunteers to Yogyakarta in Indonesia to build a home for a family in need. Working here I thought I knew what the experience would be like, but it wasnt until I arrived that it really dawned on me just what a massive, tangible impact a group of Aussie’s could have on a family and community.
The team was made up of people from all walks of life, and the fact I knew most of them prior to the trip only added to the experience. Some info about the team:
- Ages ranged from 19 to 72
- 9 males, 3 females
- 5 mates from my high school
- A new board member and his partner
- Two snorers (in single rooms)
- A photographer, digital consultant, small business owner and a door-to-door fundraiser
- A return volunteer on her THIRD build
- ALL of us office working pen-pushers with no building experience!
Before the Build
The support we received from family, friends and colleagues in the lead up to the trip was amazing, and our experience would not have been possible without it.
Wes – Managing Director of a small business (shameless plug: www.curvy.com.au): It’s important to me that I lead by example and set the tone from the top down when it comes to corporate social responsibility and giving back. It’s had a really positive effect on my team and they’ve all been really enthusiastic and excited about my trip. I was really humbled and overwhelmed with the number of people in my professional network who really got behind me and gave very generous donations.
Lisa – Three-time volunteer and my closest contender for worst ‘Dad jokes’: I had been wondering what it would be like coming on this trip on my own. It’s really exceeded my expectations because as soon as I got off the plane I just felt instantly a part of the team. We bonded so well, everyone just became family, and they’ll be the best mates you’ll have for the rest of your life.
Imogen – Youngest volunteer and future Grammy winner: We bonded instantly because we’re in a totally new environment, you’re doing things you’ve never done before and you all just want to give it a go.
Yogyakarta is full of adventure and things to do, so before the build we took a bus to nearby Goa Jomblang caves. After repelling 60m down a cliff face, and walking through a deep, dark cave, there is a an opening which allows light to shine through which the locals call ‘Heaven’s Light.’ I knew there was a reason we invited Adam, the photographer on the build, and it was to capture incredible moments like this.
From there we went tubing down the Kalisuci river, and also squeezed in a visit to the historic Borobodur temple.
Adam – photographer and my roomie: Being in Yogyakarta has been an incredible experience. I’ve been taking about 500 photos a day of the natural beauty, people and the character in their faces, so as a photographer I’m very happy.
Lisa: I really love the adventure in this town. We’ve been tubing, caving, canyoning…it didn’t stop. And when you’re tired at the end of the day, you can jump in the hotel pool, it’s not all hard work!
When showing my CEO these photos he remarked ‘Did you actually build anything?!’ Well yes we did!
We arrived at the build site and met the family we would be building with. Widodo and his wife Tuyanti, both part-time labourers in their early 30’s, and their 6 year old son Anika, were understandably quite shy when confronted with 12 enthusiastic Aussies, and very humbled that we would travel so far to help them.
Their previous home was dire. It had a dirt floor which would turn to mud when it rained as the roof would leak; the bamboo structure would need constant repairs, costing money the family did not have to spare, and had very minimal ventilation.
As the week went on, the shyness didn’t completely go away, but the appreciation and realisation of what we were achieving together dawned on all of us.
Josh – goes better at laying bricks than he does on the soccer field: Each day is really hard work, whether you’re mixing cement, picking up bricks, shovelling dirt…but it’s really rewarding. You can look back at what you’ve done and really see drastic change, and you don’t get that back in normal life. It’s a great experience…you do hurt…you have really sore and aching bones, but it’s all outweighed by what you’ve done each day.
Jon – digital guru and sweatiest man on site: Seeing the people you’re building for, their children, their grandchildren, the local community, come to life as the week’s gone on. You can really see the delight on their faces that their house, their home, is really coming together.
Blair – Habitat Board member and elder statesmen of the group: One of the nicest things for me has been how the relationship has developed between the local construction crew, the villagers, the family we’re working with, and particularly the friends that are drawn in. The children come from all over to meet us and see what’s going on.
Joel – ladies man and always smiling: When we arrived there was just a pile of dirt, but later in the week it’s been amazing seeing the progress day in, day out and doing it as a team. You can also tell how much it means to the community here.
Ros – expert steel twine tier and all round inspiration: Before coming, I had some misgivings about my physical capabilities. That’s been totally unfounded because there have been tasks well within my capabilities, and well within my sense of being able to contribute actively to the team. While the team is much younger and physically more able, they’ve been really great about including and encouraging us. The best thing about the build has been working with the local family and community, and to have them show us the techniques they are using. They are just watching us to make sure we are doing it right, then leaving us on our own. So I’ve developed a lot of new skills.
While the impact of a home for Widodo and his family was obvious, what we took from the week was equally as rewarding.
Ryan – Motivated the team; refused to be photographed without his signature hat: As a father of two young girls, it’s a reminder to make sure they really appreciate life and how lucky they are to have a roof over their head, a running toilet, and so many toys. I can see the gratitude in the family’s faces and I can’t wait until Friday to see the finished product and see how much that means to them.
Josh: At the end of Day 3 I was taking a video to show my 18 month old son, and as I was walking through the site and showing him images of how the family are living today and what we were building for their future, I got really emotional thinking about how lucky WE are and how lucky HE is, and how much of a change this will bring about for the local family. Going back home he’s going to be spoilt, like all kids, but I really want to make sure that he understands how lucky he is and that he takes good values from the basics in life.
Pete – travelled all the way from Seattle; late for bus each day blaming it on jetlag: I’ve never really had a holiday like this where I’ve given back to a community, and I have to say it’s been an amazing experience. Just having that sense of achievement. Every little action you’re doing for these people is so well received, they’re so thankful, and it’s rewarding for you as well – the most rewarding experience of my life.
Blair: In my lifetime, experiences shape the importance of home to me. Home has always been where the heart is, and what I see here in the village and amongst the families that are working here, is that what we’re doing here will permit children to come back to live with the family as there’ll be additional room for them, and they’ll be able to work the land. So there are spin-offs to what we’re doing that you don’t really think about, that are all around the importance of home.
Ros: Home, primarily is the relationships, and the familial bonds that are there and can be strengthened. If people are in a stable, safe and clean house then relationships can build stronger.
Jon: What inspired me to come on this trip was to able to do something really practical. You can see what’s being delivered, how people in other parts of the world live and try to make a big difference in a short amount of time. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to someone’s home. It feels like a real personal thing to be able to help them with.
Of course the #1 reason we’re here is to help Widodo, Tuyanti and Putra build a new home – a foundation for a happy, hopeful future.
Previously, our family still lived in one home with our parents. But the house is old – the walls of the toilet are made from bamboo and it has the same condition as a makeshift bathroom. When heavy rain comes, water will enter through the cracks of the roof and the floor would be very cold.
When we received a home, the living conditions of our house has changed completely. Even with the heavy rain, the water does not come in anymore, we have a room and tile floors with a safe house structure. And the bathroom is in a much better condition.
The new house really makes our life better!!
The construction process of this house is also assisted by volunteers from Australia, It has touched our hearts and we will never forget all their kindness. We want to say thank you for the volunteers from Australia who had come and given assistance to build homes for our families.
Once again, thanks volunteers!! Thanks Habitat!!
The best bits
Josh: At the end of a hard days work, looking back at what we’ve done, then getting back on the bus together, hi-fiving and waving goodbye to all the locals and just feeling genuinly good about what you’re doing.
Adam:The vibe of the last day. While everyday has been upbeat and everyone’s been so positive, today we know we are going to finish… and we’re about to give the home to the family…and we can’t wait!
Ros: Hearing the children’s laughter each day, and engaging with them has made it really special.
Ryan: I’m lucky enough to be doing this with six of my good mates from high school. Over the years we’ve been on a number of ‘boys trips’ which have all been great, but this one has some meaning and purpose behind it. We’re definitely still having a great time, but we’re over here to help a family in need, and a broader community in need. So we’ve had the fun, and the bonding, but mixed with that better purpose.
Lisa: The people in Yogyakarta warm your heart as soon as you meet them. I love the fact that the community really welcomed us when we arrived and throughout the whole build. I definitely feel like this has changed my life, and I’m already excited about the next build.
Imogen: You’ll literally be bending steel or packing cement and there’ll be kids running around the whole site. They’re like a little ray of sunshine around the build site, and made the whole thing, really really fun.
Pete: The people here are so humble and so happy with what they’ve got. You can just tell that this opportunity will really lift their entire lives. The week has allowed me to give a tangible, lasting benefit to a local community and at the same time take with me an amazing sense of accomplishment and experiences I will remember for the rest of my life.
For me the adventure activities were a thrill; the local kids learning our names so they could write them in the sand was heart-warming; the hard work, while it hurt, was satisfying; and getting to know and work alongside the family and community was truly a privilege.
But for me the highlight was undoubtedly who was standing next to me each day. To be able to share a part of what I do here at Habitat with lifelong friends is something I’ll never forget.
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