Looking for a bit of travel adventure mixed with the spirit of giving back? Are you apprehensive about traveling to a foreign country alone? Try signing up for Habitat For Humanity’s Global Village program. The program sponsors “builds” in needy communities around the world. There is a fee to participate but you can solicit donations from your family and friends to fund your charitable adventure.
Here is MY experience with HFH Global Village…
In a former life, I worked as the head of International Marketing for Def Jam Recordings and in 2002 MTV wanted to film a unique international adventure for one of our top artists at the time, Ludacris. The location for the excursion turned out to be South Africa. It was like a dream come true for me. Africa was a place I had longed to visit and now I was planning a business trip there. And most importantly, FREE for me. The company paid all travel and expenses! Business class flight, five star hotels, great food, this was right up my alley.
We traveled to Johannesburg and Cape Town and stayed at the Michelangelo Hotel, the Saxon (breathtaking) in Jo’burg and the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa in Cape Town (serene). Because it was a business trip, our sightseeing time was very limited and we were basically at the mercy of MTV’s production schedule. We managed to squeeze in a few notable moments like meeting with local kids in the shanty town, shopping at a bazaar, waterfront sightseeing, but overall the trip was a bit too rushed. I couldn’t be too upset, again, I didn’t have to cone out of pocket not one dime.
I returned from the trip determined to find my way back in the most cost effective way possible. In 2004, I did a few searches on line and stumbled upon Habitat’s Global Village website listing Cape Town as a build site in February 2005. I was excited. I sent in an email to the group leader expressing my interest in joining the build. I was told all spots were basically filled but they would see if they could make an exception and try to add me. Sitting on pins and needles, a few days later, I received a message that I was accepted into the group! YAY!
Once you are accepted into a group, you then have a certain amount of time to do some fundraising to fund your trip. My trip was going to cost about $2800 all in. The HFH cost was about $1800 and my coach flight from NYC was about $1000 at that time. I sent out my HFH donation form to all my co-workers, friends and family. By the time my extremely generous colleagues finished donating I had enough funds for my HFH fee AND my airfare. I even received a “bonus” gift of a few days R&R after my build at my favorite 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa in Cape Town.
Our accommodations were at a youth hostel in Cape Town. It was clean, but it was far from the 5-star lifestyle I’d grown accustomed. There were shower and bathroom stalls and honestly I could not wait until the end of the build to trot on over to the 12 Apostles and take the world’s longest shower and steam treatment. But honestly, when you are there in the trenches (literally) helping a family build their first home, you become grateful that at least you are blessed enough to have the hostel with a bed, showers and an indoor toilet. I was just happy to be there, and happy to help make a difference.
The actual “building” process is nothing to be afraid of. There are locals there to help do the heavy lifting. We would build during the day from about 9:00am until 3:00pm with a lunch break. On my trip we had a few unexpected days of R&R due to the late shipment of building materials. We traveled most places in groups. We ate and went sightseeing together. Honestly, it was a very easy “build.”
During one of our off days, we voted to go and help out for a day an orphanage. This was probably more touching than anything I’d done. I was so ready to just grab one of the children and bring him home with me. He clung to me like he knew me since birth.
Overall, the trip was great. I met people from all over the country, some whom I still keep in touch with though at times it was like being on the set of Real World with so many different cultures and ideals in such close quarters.
A few interesting builds for 2013 include: Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Kenya, Fiji, Malaysia, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Trinidad &Tobago and many more.
Check out the Habitat For Humanity Global Village site, read all of the descriptions, policies, etc. to see if this is an experience you’d like to try.
Have you had any purposeful adventure travels? Please share..