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International Volunteer Program Spotlight: Shelly Koo

By Shelly Koo

Dumela, Goeie dag, Sawubona, and Hello! That is ‘hello’ in four out of the 11 official languages in South Africa, where I am currently serving as an international volunteer from the United States.

While I have only been here for about three months, I can without a doubt say that one of the biggest blessings has been the opportunity and privilege of working alongside so many passionate and diverse staff. Here at the Africa and the Middle East area office, we have staff from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Philippines, United States, Togo, New Zealand, Rwanda, and, of course, South Africa. To me, it is a glimpse of Heaven, where many nations, tribes, and tongues are not only represented, but working and serving alongside one another to build homes for the poor and be a part of ushering His Kingdom here on earth.

As for myself, I have just finished my Master of Social Work at Boston College and am volunteering as a research, planning, and evaluation support administrator, where I will be assisting with national program evaluations in Madagascar, Lebanon and Lesotho. This process includes developing various tools for evaluation, conducting various interviews with homeowners, partner organizations, and staff, and assisting with the final report.

I enjoy my volunteer placement because I get to travel and visit many of the country programs and learn from all of the staff and communities in those countries. I recently got back from Lebanon where I spent two weeks with Habitat for Humanity Lebanon and a couple of staff from the Area Office in Pretoria. I feel very lucky to have met such inspiring and solid people at HFHL, experience the beauty of the city, eat lots of good food, learn about the intricate and difficult housing and community needs that exist in the country, and most of all, be a part of a learning process that will hopefully add to the good work HFHL is doing.

In the next three months, as I finish my time here, I hope I can continue to learn from Habitat for Humanity International, meet more families and individuals, and walk away with a greater knowledge and commitment to serving the poor, in whatever capacity that may be.

Shelly Koo served as a Habitat for Humanity International Volunteer in 2009 with the HFHI Africa and the Middle East Area Office (South Africa)