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Amarante, Portugal

September 21, 2013 to September 30, 2013

What do you know about Portugal? Do you have only some hazy memory of memorizing early explorers’ names when you were in middle school? Have you traveled in Portugal extensively and love it so much you want to go back? Whatever your experience, this Global Village build provides a wonderful opportunity to see part of the culture of Portugal from the inside. You will also gain the great satisfaction of knowing you have helped a family to achieve their dream of decent housing.

We will fly into Porto in the north of Portugal and be transported by van to the ancient town of Amarante to rehabilitate existing housing. We will be a relatively small team with a maximum of 10 committed individuals. No construction skills are necessary, but a willingness to learn, share, have fun and work hard are essential prerequisites.

About Portugal
Portugal is situated on the west side of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. It became an independent kingdom in 1143, and it is one of the oldest existent nations in Europe. It was the Portuguese sailors who, in the 15th century, discovered the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan, changing the way people understood the world around them.

About Amarante
Amarante is situated along the banks of the Tâmega River. The city of Amarante offers stunning views of the Marao Mountain range, as well as several places to visit, shop and eat. The town’s historic center is also home to the famous St. Goncalo Church and the St. Goncalo Bridge, both of which are popular national monuments to visit.

The bridge, built in 1790, was the scene of heroic resistance in 1809 by the people of Amarante, who fought off French Marshall Soult’s advance for 14 days before his army advanced and burnt down their houses. Below the St. Goncalo Bridge, travelers can stroll along the riverbank or enjoy the views from one of several cafes.

About Habitat for Humanity Portugal
Housing is a major concern for Portuguese families, with 65 percent of the population living in dilapidated housing and 8.5 percent in shacks. One of the biggest challenges of HFH Portugal is a common dependency on government subsidies. The Governmental Social Housing program has been relatively effective in re-housing families that were living in poor conditions. However, support for the families that have been relocated does not exist. Social problems such as alcoholism, illiteracy, exclusion, lack of basic care and the creation of “social ghettos” are not solved with this kind of assistance. Only by promoting community-building and inclusiveness, and through educational and social programs, is it possible to break this poverty cycle.

Poverty housing in Portugal is spread throughout the country, with two distinctive kinds of housing: “hidden poverty” (typical Portuguese houses with a small orchard that hides the poor housing conditions) and the obvious shacks of the big cities. Since the 1970s, Portugal has been the destination country for immigrants from the former Portuguese colonies and Brazil and more recently, for immigrants from former Soviet Union countries. Thus, the need for housing is growing, especially in the urban areas of the country.

The first Habitat house in Portugal was built in 1999 in the town of Vieira do Minho. The following year, HFH Braga began to build in Palmeira and Cunha, and has served 28 families as of October 2008. In 2002, the organization began to renovate and repair existing homes and apartments and continues to find ways to serve more families. Learn more about Habitat Portugal at

Types of construction for volunteers
Volunteers may work on single-family home and apartment renovation and repair projects.

Standard itinerary
(10-day itinerary)

Day 1 (typically Saturday): Depart for Portugal.
Day 2 (Sunday): Arrive in Porto, Portugal; travel to Amarante; welcome and orientation with Habitat host program staff member; dinner.
Days 3–8 Work days (Monday–Saturday): Breakfast served before traveling to work site; work from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. with lunch on-site; free time after work to clean up; dinner in local restaurants; team activities. Note: Special events throughout the week include cultural experiences with host program staff, such as market tours, museum visits, walking tours, etc.
Farewell dinner on Day 8. Note: Thursday can be an optional cultural activity day or work day.
Day 9 (Sunday): Free time; final team dinner.
Day 10 (Monday): Departure day.

Hotels are simple and basic, and typically located near the project site. The team will stay in double-occupancy rooms with a private bathroom. All facilities are screened by HFH staff to ensure that they are safe, clean and well maintained.

Program cost
(For more details about what is included in this cost, visit Global Village program cost.)

Build a better world: Take the Global Village Challenge
Habitat for Humanity International is challenging Global Village volunteers to make an even greater impact on the global issue of poverty housing. We are asking all GV teams to help us raise an additional $1.1 million in the coming year to support Habitat’s building projects worldwide. Take up the challenge! Join us in sharing our story and building a better world!

Team leader
Bob Jones has participated in Global Village builds in Hungary, Costa Rica and as co-leader in Portugal. This will be his second trip as a leader. Bob is a retired banker who lives in Montana. He enjoys gardening, biking and photographing the world. He can be reached at

As a team we will participate in cultural activities near Amarante. Team members may wish to explore other options in Portugal or farther afield on their own before or after the build. 

To apply for a GV trip, please follow the Application Instructions.

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