Alan O'Connor, Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity – A Global Village build in Rajasthan, November 2013

I wanted to let the Marcellin community know a little about Global Village housebuilding with Habitat for Humanity, a Christian organisation based on the principle ‘a hand up not a hand out’.  I have been involved with HFH since 1990 and have undertaken nine builds in the Asia Pacific region.  I have just returned from three weeks in India where a group of 15 men and women (mainly from Adelaide) helped three homeowners build in a small village in Rajasthan.  This trip most of those taking part were older workers or retired.  However, I have participated in a build (in Cambodia) where 5 of my team mates were aged 17 and had just completed their last year of schooling.

The families chosen to be home owners usually have low paid jobs in the community such as agricultural work and a willingness to contribute with their own sweat equity.  The volunteer teams from different countries usually stay in accommodation in a nearby town (in our case near Bharatpur) and build from 6 to 8 days with a 2 day break in the middle (we are still soft westerners after all!)

The work does not require great skills – we were all enthusiastic amateurs – and we are led by the local Habitat organisation usually in partnership with another group – in this case the Lupin Foundation.  This time our main roles involved mixing mortar and moving bricks to ensure that the masons had everything they needed as well as digging some huge septic pits.  There were only three toilets for 305 households so we were not about to add to their problems.  The pictures tell the story better than my words.

We made sure that we learnt more about the issues facing the locals (eg the only well is now 70 feet deep and falling, the central role of the buffalo, potential new enterprises) and had lots of interaction with the children (the only toys we saw were marbles).  At the end of our time we had a community celebration and were challenged to an 8 overs a side cricket match by the local primary school boys; we were easily beaten 66 to 42 and then donated our inflatable mascot, Kylie the kangaroo, to the school.

We were fortunate to also participate in Diwali celebrations in Delhi, visited the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort as well as the Bharatpur bird sanctuary and were invited to local wedding celebrations – lots of kudos to invite a westerner to your party!  After the build eight of us flew to Varanasi and stayed near the sacred Ganges River not far from the ghats where those who pass away and whose families can afford it are cremated on sandalwood pyres next to the river.  We became very fit moving up and down those hundreds of steps, avoiding the cow pats and visiting the local attractions. 

If you want to know more about Global Village builds please check out the websites

{C}*      Habitat for Humanity Australia -

{C}*      Habitat for Humanity International –

I am conscious that voluntourism (as this sort of activity is increasingly known) is not without its critics and a debate has been occurring on the Guardian website if you want to investigate this further. 

Alan O'Connoron the job1.jpg
A O'Connor progress1.jpg
A O'Connorend of build celebrations1.jpg
A O'Connor women at the well.jpg
A O'Connor the kids.jpg
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A O'Connor Thank you.jpg