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My first volunteer experience with Habitat

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Volunteers in Birmingham are driven by many things

 

By Juraj Bobula

 

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Juraj Bobula working on the Big Build site.

   
 

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Iosif and his wife (center) receive keys from their new home.

   

When I first heard of the Global Village volunteer trip concept in Habitat for Humanity, my ears twitched, recognizing a genuine product, designed to bring about true changes, rather than making the affluent feel good they’ve done a thing to help solve out world’s problems.

From day one, I knew my holiday was in good hands. Weeks before my trip to Romania, e-mails began streaming to my inbox encouraging us to fundraise, informing us about the project and raising expectations.

I realized that there will be about 150 volunteers from Northern Ireland, and that the Northern Irish Habitat office set a goal to build 10 homes in just 5 days. I received detailed itineraries and knew there was someone on the other end taking care of my food, lodging, safety and travel.

When we arrived at Beius, the small town where the houses were to be built, we found our accommodations, received information packs and protective helmets, and met a large group of Irish volunteers whose enthusiasm and jolliness was hard not to contract.

Coming to the site Monday morning, I saw foundations already laid and trusses, timber, plaster, other construction materials and tools prepared. Toilets, and info area, meal tent and cleaning area neatly arranged to make our time on the site as efficient as possible.

Truly, there was a lot of eyebrow-raising for me on the first day. With more than two hundred people on the site, all of which each were eager to lend a helping hand, this could have ended in a catastrophe were it not for immaculate organization of the site, work, and individual groups.

It has not surprised me then that on Friday, 10 complete houses were dedicated to families of former orphans. During those five days, I learned not only how to nail, cut and glue styrene insulation to the outer shell and coat it with plaster, build inside walls and add the final finishing layer on the house; I observed how such low-cost houses come into existence. At the same time, we built in an atmosphere glowing with cheer, good will and encouragement.

When we presented his first ever-home to Iosif, one of the beneficiaries, he burst into tears, helplessly leaning on his wife’s shoulder. I could tell how much this meant to him and I just knew that I was a part of a real answer to a real need of real people and that hope had made its home with Iosif’s family from that day.

 

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