Europe and Central Asia featured program: Poland
Poland is located in Central Europe, east of Germany, and is primarily flat, with mountains along its southern border. The climate in Poland is temperate, with cold, snowy winters and mild summers with frequent rain..
As a former member of the Eastern Bloc, Poland continues to deal with the legacy left by communist economic and social policies. Despite tremendous reforms, overcrowded and damp housing without proper sanitation is still the reality for many of Poland’s low-income working families. These families are often forgotten behind the walls of aging Soviet-style apartment building blocks.
The Economic Housing Institute indicates that almost one in four apartments in Poland should be condemned. Of existing housing, approximately one in eight do not have a kitchen, and almost one in ten share a toilet with an entire floor of apartments or have no indoor facility at all. With a severe affordable housing shortage, low-income families often have no choice but to live in substandard housing that threatens their health and safety.
Habitat for Humanity’s work in Poland began in 1992 in Gliwice. Since that time, five more community groups or affiliates have started in Poznań, Gdynia, Wrocław, Warsaw and Gdańsk.
Multi-family units have been the centerpiece of Habitat’s work in Poland. These buildings are made to withstand Poland’s harsh winters, while allowing plenty of sun and fresh air in spring and summer. The buildings have wooden roofs and cement foundations. The walls are made of lightweight cellular blocks that provide good thermal insulation, a solid structure and easy handling.
Families have 20 years to pay off their no-interest loan, through monthly mortgage payments equal to roughly US$140. In addition to the simple, decent housing that these apartments provide, many also share a small garden or play area for children, creating a strong sense of community among the homeowners.
HFH Poland continues to investigate options to have a greater impact. In Warsaw, Habitat is working with a housing association partner to renovate a post World War II apartment block with 23 resident families. Domy Nadziei (Homes of Hope) in Gliwice is also building multi-family dwellings in partnership with families.
Habitat for Humanity Poland is an active player in the fight for a Polish housing legislation that would have the government address the issues of poverty housing in the country. Habitat for Humanity Poland built a coalition with non-governmental organizations, housing experts and other housing institutions and started an awareness campaign on poverty housing.
You can learn more about Habitat Poland at www.habitat.pl.
Types of construction for volunteers
Volunteers may help with new construction of multi-family housing or renovations for apartments and homes.
Polish students often work alongside GV teams both to practice speaking English and to do their share of volunteer building. Habitat homeowners and other Polish people often provide tea and coffee at lunch for the teams, encouraging time to sit down together and relax in fellowship. The homeowners are anxious to tell their stories, and GV participants are encouraged to ask questions. Singing and laughter is common during on-site breaks.
Gliwice/Katowice, Poznan, Warsaw
Teams arrive and depart from the Krakow international airport for Gliwice/Katowice teams and the Warsaw international airport for Poznan/Warsaw teams. Taxis will be used for traveling to and from the airport and hotel. Both long-distance and daily transport (to and from work site) is typically a 15-person private minibus with a hired driver.
Hotels are simple and basic and typically located near the project site. The team will stay in double-occupancy rooms with a private bath. The team will spend the first and last nights at a hotel in Krakow or Warsaw depending on the host program. All facilities are screened by Habitat staff to ensure they are safe, clean and well maintained.
Breakfast and dinner: Served in the hotel or a local restaurant.
Lunch: Served on the work site, or the team will pack lunches.
Water: Purified, bottled water will be provided throughout the day.
Hosting structure and services
Habitat for Humanity Poland hosting staff can be reached via email and is available to answer questions prior to the trip. Hosting staff contact information is dependent upon the project destination. A Habitat staff person will accompany the team and will serve as a translator.
Itineraries are balanced with plenty of work, rest and free time. Hosting staff in Poland offer teams a warm welcome to their community and encourage teams to visit local cultural treasures.
Team members experience great personal growth through cultural and linguistic challenges and return to their home countries transformed. Team members also create lasting relationships and gain a better understanding of the effects of poverty housing.
11-day itinerary (A 15-day itinerary is also an option for U.S. teams.)
Day 1 (Typically Friday): Depart for Poland.
Day 2 (Saturday): Arrive in Krakow or Warsaw depending on host program; overnight in hotel; dinner.
Day 3 (Sunday): Travel to host program; welcome and orientation; dinner.
Day 4–9 (Workdays, Monday–Saturday): Work from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. with lunch on site; free time after work to clean up; dinner in local restaurants; team activities; cultural experiences, such as market tours, museum visits, etc; farewell dinner.
Day 10 (Sunday): Travel to Krakow or Warsaw; free time; Final team dinner.
Day 11 (Monday): Departure day.
Gliwice/Katowice Starting at $1,750 (11 days) - $2,030 (15 days)
Warsaw/Poznan Starting at $1,690 (11 days)
*View costs included in the standard budget.
Volunteer Engagement specialist
If you have read the FAQs and have further questions before you submit a Global Village trip proposal, please contact Europe and Central Asia volunteer engagement specialist Joe Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-HABITAT , ext. 7980.