Volunteer to Build Affordable Homes Internationally with Habitat for Humanity

Pounding Nails for a Good Cause

Habitat for Humanity volunteers
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Looking for a volunteer opportunity combined with a U.S. or international trip? Find volunteer travel with Habitat for Humanity. Read more at the bottom of this article on volunteering to rebuild the storm-torn US Gulf Coast region, what you can do to help in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis, or volunteer in earthquake-struck China.

What Is Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat For Humanity is an international nonprofit housing organization, working in partnership with families in need of decent shelter and with supervised volunteers, using largely donated materials, to build homes in the U.S. and around the world. For example, if an area is a victim of a natural disaster and people have lost their homes, Habitat for Humanity volunteers come in to help a community rebuild their houses. 

How Habitat for Humanity Works

Habitat's home base is in Georgia, but the work at the community level is overseen by affiliates - local, nonprofit organizations. Affiliates choose potential partners (families needing affordable housing) and volunteers. Use Habitat's search engine to find a project you'd like to help with. You can volunteer with Habitat for Humanity locally or internationally through Global Village, Habitat's international arm.

You don't need any special construction skills to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, although being able to pound nails is a plus. You should also be aware that the work isn't going to be easy. You'll be standing all day, sometimes in sweltering heat, using tools, and, well, building an entire house from scratch. 

You'll be working side by side with volunteer team members and the partner family; partners contribute hundreds of hours of sweat equity toward their new home. In many cases, the rest of the community also pitches in.

Partners are chosen, after application, based on ability to make a down payment and repay the no-interest loan on new homes, level of need for housing and willingness to work hard.

How to Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity

Click to view a worldwide map in order to see where Habitat is building -- there are many countries to choose from. You'll get information about the area, projects, and local affiliate contact information, including e-mail addresses. You can also sort by date or alphabetically by country.

Global Village

If you want to volunteer outside of the United States, the Global Village section of the website is where you want to start your research. Prepare yourself for sticker shock, though, as 9-14 day trips cost anywhere between $1000 and $2200, not including airfare. Your cost does include room and board, in-country transportation, travel insurance, and a donation toward the host community's building program.

Another benefit is that it's not all work and no play -- volunteer teams take time off for safaris, whitewater trips, ruins explorations or whatever interesting sightseeing and adventure the area has to offer.

Some of the current opportunities on Global Village include a women-only trip building homes for families over nine days in Honduras; 13 days spent building homes for families across Vietnam; building a home for a village in Zambia over the space of 10 days; 10 days building homes in Argentina; and building homes for vulnerable populations for 10 days in Cambodia.

Volunteering in Nepal, the Philippines, and More

Maybe you want to help out victims of natural disasters, in which case Habitat for Humanity can find a placement for you. Most recently, they have built homes in the following places: 

Nepal: In 2015, a massive earthquake struck Nepal with devastating effects. The country is still in recovery now, several years later. More than 8,800 people were killed in the earthquake, over 604,900 homes were destroyed and around 290,000 were damaged, which means there is a desperate need for volunteers to come in and help with housing. Habitat is currently supporting "disaster-affected families through rubble removal, temporary shelter kit distribution, detailed safety assessments of houses and permanent home construction."

The Philippines: In 2013, a huge earthquake struck close to the island of Bohol, in the Philippines. More than 3 million lives were affected and over 50,000 hours were damaged. Habitat says, "Habitat Philippines launched Rebuild Bohol to build more than 8,000 housing units for families affected by the earthquake. These core shelters are built to withstand 220 kph wind velocity and 6-magnitude earthquakes and use local materials such as bamboo which help the local economy and are environmentally friendly."

You can see a full list of current and recent disaster programs run by Habitat for Humanity online if you're interested in getting involved