Door County Habitat for Humanity, which completed its 34th Door County home in 2012, has assisted in international home construction for 18 years. The organization’s tithe has supported the construction of more than 80 dwellings outside of the United States (primarily in Honduras and Nicaragua) since 1995. In an effort to expand this involvement in international affordable housing programs, local Habitat leaders decided in 2011 to look into the possibility of sending Wisconsinites to Honduras both to build homes and also to provide opportunities for inter-cultural service.
Three years, three newly housed families and three “Global Village” work crews later, the local affiliate considers the experience to have been truly successful. Door County Habitat Executive Director Rick Nelson says, “The Wisconsin volunteers have enjoyed: 1) Assisting deserving Honduran families in need of a simple, decent and affordable homes; 2) An intercultural experience that has broadened horizons and created new international relationships; and, 3) Given Door County Habitat a firsthand view of the projects that have been carried on with the help of local financial contributions.”
Trip costs – about $2,000 per person – are covered by work crew participants. No donations to Door County Habitat for Humanity are used for the project unless the donor specifically designates their contribution for that purpose.
The following excerpts are taken from a report written by Nelson:
We arrived in Puerto Lempira on Saturday (after only four hours of sleep in La Ceiba) and visited the other Habitat homes that we had worked on in 2011 and 2012. Sunday, a day of rest, included an approximately one hour boat trip to the nearby village of Palkaka. While there we bought a turtle which became our supper the following evening.
Our work week started on Monday with a bright, sunny and hot day. Trenches had been dug during the weekend for the footings. We began by tying rebar for those footings. We also began what turned out to be a weeklong effort of hauling materials – concrete blocks, sand, gravel, bags of lime, sacks of cement – the approximately one hundred yards from where the trucks dumped it to the house site. (The area in which we were working was so wet that the trucks became stuck if they ventured any closer to the home.) Some of these items were carried in one of the three wheelbarrows available to us, but others – especially the concrete blocks – were hauled by hand when the wheelbarrows were being used by others or were occupied in mixing cement or mortar. We also spent much time sifting sand for the mortar and mixing the lime, cement, sand and water for the mortar mix.
The future homeowner, Alba Zelaya, worked as hard as any of us. Even when we were worn out, there was Alba, pushing a wheelbarrow or carrying blocks in her arms. Work was done under the supervision of three local masons. By the time that we finished our work on Friday, concrete block had been laid nearly to the roof line.
A local Honduran committee selects the partner families to receive homes and assists recipients in preparing for homeownership. Families (like Habitat homeowners in Door County) are required to help in the construction of their homes, following the long-established model of Habitat for Humanity International.
Volunteering on a Global Village trip provides opportunities to observe and contribute to Habitat’s international work firsthand. Trip participants will learn about poverty housing, challenges to international development, and Habitat’s efforts to eradicate them. Cross-cultural learning opportunities, exposure to distinct language and social practices and the chance to work with homeowners and volunteers from varied backgrounds are added benefits of the Global Village program.
Work crew members and Door County Habitat will soon decide when the next Global Village trip will be scheduled.