My 2019 ‘Habitat for Humanity’ Trip

Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.

I don’t know why I’ve been reminiscing my past experiences so much lately (maybe because of post-internship-application afterthoughts), but I want to immortalise another really, really insightful and fun trip I’ve had into the blog again.

🏠What is Habitat for Humanity?🏠

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organisation, with the primary aim to help impoverished areas repair, restore and improve their homes and neighbourhoods.

They do so pretty much all through fundraising, and send volunteers to help those in need build their own houses.

My Experience with Habitat

(Roughly) every year, my school recruits a group of 20 students, 10 from 3rd year and 10 from 4th year, to go on a Habitat for Humanity trip during Easter break and build 2 houses. Naturally, all the selected students would need to fundraise a certain amount in order to be able to finance the trip and the constructions materials needed for the house.

And somehow, I applied and got accepted🙂

It was terrific news, and every person I spoke to who’s been on a Habitat trip before all told me it was a fantastic, wonderful experience.

But of course the hard part was yet to come: fundraising.

💸The Fundraising Challenge💸

Since Habitat is a non-profit organisation , we had to fundraise the trip (and contribute to buying the construction materials) all completely by ourselves.

This includes accommodation, food, local transport, and a post-tour of the country. And while the required fundraising amount for each individual does vary from year to year depending on the country, there’s always no doubt that it goes up to the thousands (a gargantuan amount in the mind of a secondary school student).

I’ve forgotten how much exactly my year’s fundraising goal for each person was, but I do vaguely remember it hovering around €3,500.

And so began my saga of fundraising for almost half a year. The usual strategies were going to local supermarkets and asking for permission to bag-pack, organising events, asking friends and families for donations, and public busking.
I deployed each of the strategies above with the exception of public busking, as I don’t think my abysmal self-esteem could’ve handled that pressure 😅
But yeah, I managed to secure permission to bag-pack in a good few supermarkets and, with the help of many great friends and fellow Habitat partners, made the bulk of the fundraising goal through bag-packing. It was insane. I even heard some of my friends funded their entire Habitat trip with just 3 or 4 days of bag-packing!

Another way I fundraised was by organising a football tournament in my school with the help of the legendary teacher Mr.Malin, who helped sponsor the prizes (thank you so much sir 😭). It was pretty awkward and poorly organised on my behalf, but it was still a good learning experience!

It took a lot of time and effort , but the seemingly unreachable goal of €3,500 was finally reached in the end; thus marking the beginning of my actual Habitat journey😄

🏠The ‘Building a House’ Part🏠

Following a fun quiz from the trip organisers, our Habitat destination for 2019 was revealed to be Vietnam🇻🇳. We learned about their culture and traditions, as well as underwent some training by actual Habitat for Humanity representatives. I even learned a bit of Vietnamese from a family friend (that’s long gone dormant), in order to try connect with the country a bit more before setting off.

And once we finally did arrive in Vietnam, it was honestly just a phenomenal, phenomenal experience. Though I do frequently visit my grandparents and cousins back in China and so am fairly familiar with other Asian cultures and landscapes, visiting a new country with a terrific group of people was just so, so fun. We visited shops, people, landmarks, tried Vietnamese cuisine, played games with the local children, and bought (probably too) many small Vietnamese trinkets and souvenirs (of course, bringing back a Vietnamese rice hat was absolutely non-negotiable).

The building and construction part was also quite fun! Though it was probably amplified because I was doing it with friends and great teachers, but honestly doing the DIY and handiwork was really interesting. Bringing out bricks, making cement, smearing cement, laying bricks, using scaffolds, and just being around the construction site in general was pretty cool. Naturally, we also had a group of actual local builders to guide and help us through the entire construction process, who were all super instructive and helpful. Above all else it was fulfilling, knowing that instead of chucking a bit of change into a shop’s charity box, I was outside doing true, hands on charity work.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still rough. Many of my friends, accustomed to the cool Irish weather, had to take regular breaks for fear of heat stroke. Mosquitos followed us regularly as if our blood was fine dining. We got dirty and muddy practically every day.

But the simple everyday interaction with the local community, as well as seeing the family’s gratitude toward us every day was more than enough to offset those small inconveniences.

Honestly, whenever I think back to my Habitat trip I always just smile at the stupid, hilarious, heartwarming, and insightful memories I made

My Reflections from Habitat

So, what things in general have I learned from my Habitat trip? Why should you think about going on one? This is the section where I’ll write down things I feel I learned, experienced, or just improved upon, through my Habitat for Humanity trip.

  1. 😨It helped push me out of so, so many comfort zones. I’ve been pretty introverted for all my life leading up to the habitat trip, and I can confidently say the fundraising helped ‘shove’ me into being more interactive with strangers. From asking for permission to pack shoppers’ bags, to asking classmates to join my random football tournament, the fundraising definitely helped break me out my shell.
  2. 😖It made me more persevering. Like I said before, the habitat trip wasn’t all fun, glamour, and just a smooth tour of a foreign country. You genuinely had to put in work and help build an ACTUAL house. It was dirty, grimy, sweaty, muddy, and a lot of the time exhausting. Especially if you aren’t suited to the country’s climate (which most of us weren’t). But that being said, you always had to lift yourself back up (and others, when possible), and simply get back to it. You had to persevere through the hardships, which was a great lesson to take back home.
  3. 🏞I got to see so much of another country’s culture. Even though I’ll admit I’m not the most enthusiastic traveller, going abroad and seeing firsthand the amazing Vietnamese culture, sights and people, as well as trying their cuisine, was super enjoyable. We got to visit Halong Bay and explore its caves, Ho Chi Minh city and learn some of the country’s history, one of the world’s narrowest houses and wonder how the person inside lives in it, and so much other cool stuff. The Habitat initiative pretty much always brings you to places regular tourists usually wouldn’t go to, like in Europe or America, and that’s honestly a great feature of the trip.
  4. 🎗The trip gave me a much greater appreciation for charity and volunteering work. It was undeniably difficult dealing with rude people in my bag-packing, door-knocking ventures, and so my respect for daily charity workers had absolutely soared afterwards.
  5. 👏🏽The trip helped me work better in a team. I mentioned already that the trip organisers themselves hand-picked the applicants, so it wasn’t just another school trip you go on with your friends. Additionally, my introverted 3rd year self still didn’t know some of my own peers very well, let alone people in the year above me! Regardless, after many bonding sessions I did indeed get to know my Habitat partners fairly well before the trip, which was seriously vital during the construction work and helped make it so much more tolerable, since you were constantly lifting each other up! It was great fun, and honestly I’m glad I got to go on the trip with such a fantastic bunch of people🥲

Cool, that’ll probably wrap up the blog post then. Reading back through it, I think it might’ve been my longest one yet😶

Also, if you’re reading this far and are still debating on whether or not you should try a Habitat for Humanity trip since you’ve gotten the opportunity, my answer for you is a resounding YES. It’s one of my most treasured experiences and memories from all of secondary school, and one that I always think back fondly on. If you ever do get a chance, at any point in time, to embark on a Habitat for Humanity trip, please seize it immediately !

That’ll do it for this post then, stay safe guys, and I’ll now leave you with a few pictures from my trip👋🏼

(This was pre-COVID guys, the mask was for the cement dust🙃)

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