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Serving Habitat long term

By Catherine Cotrupi

Anyone would be a bit hesitant to commit to six months of unpaid work in a foreign country, but once the benefits were realized, there was no question whether or not I would decide to throw my dedication and determination into volunteering internationally.

I set on a six months volunteering stint with Habitat for Humanity after my father and I went on two Global Village trips, one to Guatemala in the summer of 2006 and the other to Armenia in the summer of 2007 to build homes alongside future homeowners.

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Catherine Cotrupi represented Habitat at the Charities fair in Prague.

I think that it was my pesky persistence, incessant emails and enthusiasm for Habitat that ultimately got me accepted for the International Volunteer Program at the beginning of 2009. I exchanged a series of emails about the logistics of my stay as well as the details of my position with two of my soon-to-be coworkers and future close friends and spent last December preparing for the trip.

At that time, I had just graduated from Clemson University in South Carolina where it has snowed about twice in the past ten years. To arrive in snowy, bleak Bratislava in early January was mildly depressing, though, with the help of a few coworkers, I got settled in quite quickly.

My position with the Europe and Central Asia area office of Habitat for Humanity was that of assistant to the volunteer coordinator. However, with experience and office-wide shifts in responsibilities, I eventually was able to informally drop the “assistant to” part!

I got to work with other international volunteers, like myself, going to the countries within the region. I was coordinating their work assignments and travel arrangements with the host offices.

The understanding I gained from such experiences as living in a foreign country, making friends of different creeds and nationalities, and working for a renowned international non-profit helped to shape and refocus my ideas for my future after graduate school.

At the end of the day, every aspect of my six months with the Europe and Central Asia office of Habitat better prepared me to pursue a life’s work in volunteer coordination. This experience was incomparable to any other in my life. I enjoyed every moment with Habitat, and I would do it again in a heartbeat (and plan to!).

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Europe and Central Asia.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in Europe and Central Asia.

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