If you like to travel and immerse yourself in another culture, while making a lasting change in a family’s life, come and join us for a short visit to Gliwice, Poland. Build lifelong memories and friendships in a country that is culturally rich in history, architecture and food.
In eleven days, we will work hard and make a positive change for a Habitat partner family. You will work with other volunteers from all over the world with a common goal in mind, building lasting friendships with people that will inspire you and make you thankful for what you have. There is no building experience required, just an adventuresome spirit, and no fear of hard work. If you have been on a Global Village trip, you are familiar with the rewards, if this is your first trip, it will change your life, as well as the lives of the families in Poland.
Poland is located in Central Europe, east of Germany, and also shares borders with Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia and the Ukraine. Poland 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.
Future homeowners Adam and Joanna Robak are pictured with their twin daughters on the build site of their Habitat housing unit.
This team will visit Gliwice, a town whose history dates back to the 13th century. At the same time, it is a vibrant city full of young people and a large university center. Gliwice is situated in the border region of Silesia that has often been divided among various rulers in the course of history and has been a meeting point of nations, cultures and religions. Here you can find a 14th century castle turned into a museum and unique wooden churches untouched by centuries. Gliwice has its modern-day fame, too. It was here in 1939 that Nazi soldiers, dressed in Polish uniforms, captured the local radio station and broadcast a message in Polish. This message was used by Germany as a pretext for starting World War II a few days later.
Poland joined the European Union in 2004 but, 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.
Economic Housing Institute research indicates that almost one in four apartments in Poland should be condemned. Of the existing housing stock, 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.
About Habitat for Humanity Poland
Habitat for Humanity’s work in Poland dates back to 1992 in the town of Gliwice.
Multi-family units have been the centerpiece of Habitat’s work in Poland. These buildings are built 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 chosen because they 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. This amount is much less than the cost of the few bank loans currently available in Poland. In addition to the simple, decent housing that these apartments provide, many also share a small garden or play area for the children, creating a strong sense of community among the homeowners.
Poland is also 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. HFH Poland built a coalition with different NGOs, housing experts, institutions related to housing, and started an awareness campaign on housing poverty.
Types of construction for volunteers
Volunteers will work on apartment and home renovation projects. The tasks will vary depending on the stage of construction.
Day 1 (Typically Friday): Depart the U.S. or other home country.
Day 2 (Saturday): Arrive in Krakow, Poland; overnight in hotel; team dinner.
Day 3(Sunday): Travel to host program; welcome and orientation with Habitat host program staff member; dinner.
Days 4-9 (Work days, Monday-Saturday): Breakfast served before traveling to work site; work from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. with lunch on-site; free time after work to clean up; dinner in local restaurants; free time for team activities.
Note: Special events held throughout the week, such as cultural experiences with host program staff, market tours, museum visits, etc; walking tour of host city; farewell dinner and closing ceremony on final day at work site.
Day 10 (Sunday): Travel to Krakow, Poland; free time; final team dinner.
Day 11 (Monday): Departure day.
Hotels are simple and basic, and typically located near the project site. The team will stay in double-occupancy rooms with private bath. The team will spend the first and last nights at a hotel in Krakow. All facilities are screened by Habitat staff to ensure that they are safe, clean and well maintained.
Breakfast is typically served at the hotel; lunch at the work site; dinner in a local restaurant. Water and snacks will be provided each day.
(For more details about what is included in this cost, visit Global Village program cost.)
Increase your impact: Take the GV Challenge
Habitat for Humanity is accelerating its work to end poverty housing, and we need Global Village teams to help. Set a goal and fundraise to make your impact last longer than the days you’re in the field. Your support builds more homes, creates resource centers, educates families, and advances our projects to build sustainable communities. We’ll even provide tools to make fundraising easy. Take the GV Challenge – join us in sharing our story and building a better world.
Karl Fechner has worked with Habitat in North Carolina and overseas. He was in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami to help build fishing boats with his son. After the project finished, he stayed and helped Global Village volunteers build houses. He was so impressed with the volunteers that he met, he decided to become a Global Village volunteer himself. He went to Nicaragua on his first Global Village trip and then led a trip to Thailand the following year. He led a trip to Nepal in 2012, and this year he is planning a trip to Gliwice, Poland.
A jack of all trades, Karl has had Poland on his bucket list for years and he would like to share the experience with you. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.