I often wonder if in man’s quest for ever-evolving civilization, do we lose bits and pieces of our humanity along the way? Watching the news, there is never a shortage of stories about murder and mayhem. Homicides and hate crimes are prevalent, in Canada and across the globe. Reports of child and elder abuse are still common place. How civilized are we?
Then there are people who completely restore my faith in mankind. Stories of random acts of kindness. I am very fortunate to know people who have unwavering dedication to making the world a better place through selfless acts. Two of these people are my close friends: Lois Thompson-Hudon and Tom Harland. Both Lois and Tom have participated in home building through Habitat for Humanity Canada – “a national non-profit organization working towards a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.” I have asked both Lois and Tom to provide some insight into their experiences. These are their testimonials:
In February 2013 I was one of 18 who travelled to El Salvador to help with the construction of 2 homes. The homes were in the community of San Vicente
This team was organized by Habitat for Humanity out of a Regina and was part of global Village. The team was a father/daughter team.
This was the second trip down for this team
I had in the past talked to some of those who had gone before and thought it would be something I would like to do once I had more time. (Have to admit though was not on a bucket list or anything like that)
Last summer I was asked if Samantha and I would be interested in joining the team for the 2013 trip. Samantha wasn’t able to go. So I had let them know that we couldn’t go on this trip however, I would still be interested in participating should another opportunity arise.
Anyway I was again contacted and told there was another individual (Taylor Stewart) who wanted to go and was needing an “adopted” parent
I jumped at the opportunity, and with that Taylor and I were able to be part of what would be an
This was an opportunity to help a family realize what for most in this country is an impossibility and something we take for granted– and that is to have their own home. The home Taylor and I worked on was only 490 square feet yet will be home to a family of four.
The team of 18 was split into 2 teams so there were 10 in our team. The family also worked with us. The father and brother of the new home owner took time off to spend the whole week working with us. It was awesome to not only work side by side with them but to get to know them and to truly see how much of a difference we were making in the life of their family
The work was definitely hard and everything was done by hand, shovel,pick ax and wheelbarrow. Yet no one complained. Everyone wanted to participate and as the week went on the work seem to get easier.
In fact by the end of the week there was some sadness to be leaving as there was still lots to be done. ( even though we knew there would be other teams coming to work on the project this had become “our home”!)
We were only there for a week so our role was to prepare the site and complete the foundation we were able to this and place the first row of bricks which was a great achievement.
El Salvador is a very poor country. However, until you actually stay and meet those who live in the community it is hard to imagine just how different life must be for them and just how fortunate we are to live where we are.
For those fathers and daughters who did go I saw an amazing bonding as they spent a week together working to make a difference.
Overall it was an amazing experience. You can’t help but look differently on how fortunate we are to live where we do!
I have just received an email from one of the team leaders advising they are going again in 2014. Up until now I hadn’t thought about going back so soon. However I find myself wanting to go back and see the home that we worked on last year and to be part of the whole experience of a new build. I guess I’m hooked on the experience!!
In November of 2012 I had the distinct pleasure of joining 26 other FCC staff from across Canada on a Habitat Humanity Build in El Salvador to work on 2 project sites to assist in the construction of a house and dig a latrine for its new owners.
Just to put things in perspective. The average size of the home that is built in El Salvador is about 500-600 sq. feet consisting of concrete block construction. And yes we also had to dig by hand a 4×4 by 24 foot hole for a latrine for each home.
Everything was done by hand with the most simplistic of tools. One mason is assigned to each site to keep us on the straight and narrow.
None the less, what a truly great opportunity to meet and work with fellow FCC staff across the country.
And what a great group of people we had.
This trip granted me the opportunity to realize on of my life goals, that of doing volunteer work in 2nd or 3rd world countries.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fit that into my life with a full-time career, family and farm business.
The goal and mission of Habitat for Humanity is to provide affordable housing to those in need across the world.
The trip was everything I expected and more.
The impact of this trip was a life changing in terms of the impact that comes with the power of giving and truly helping to make difference in the lives of those you touch.
We as Canadians are truly blessed by comparison. Our homes by comparison are palaces, however modest that they be. By comparison we want for nothing yet as a society we seem unsatisfied and in many cases unhappy. Coming back to Canada at the start of the Christmas season made these traits more noticeable with the greed and materialistic excess that in most cases seems to have become the norm for our society during the holiday season.
The El Salvadoran people have undergone such devastating human atrocities as recent as 1992 when civil war there came to an end after almost a decade. In addition they have suffered the ravages of Mother Nature such as hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes.
In the area of our build San Vicente a proportion of the village had been wiped out by a mudslide taking the lives and homes of it’s inhabitants. One lady we met has lost 13 people in her family from this single event. Despite these realities the one thing that was noticed my many of us was that the El Salvadoran people remain such happy thankful people. The power of experiencing that 1st hand is just difficult to put into words. It was not just some story brought into your home by Peter Mansbridge on the nightly national news.
A five-star vacation this was not, but an experience that was 2nd to none most definitely. A chance to travel to a different country, experience a different culture and truly get to meet and work with the people.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally invite anyone interested in giving a week of their time to consider signing up for a Habitat for Humanity experience. Habitat for Humanity on there website have a listing of projects ongoing around the world at any given time that you can join. I encourage anyone that ever wanted to join in and experience a thing such as I have described, go for it, you will not be disappointed.
Thank you for Lois & Tom for contributing to today’s post. I am proud to call both of you my friends!