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Volunteer in South America

Families Manage the Workload

When I was an architecture student a good way to learn and apply basic construction skills was to volunteer for the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. Later on in my life the opportunity to volunteer for Habitat came around again—this time in Paraguay.

The affiliate office of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) in Asuncion, Paraguay has built over 50 simple, much-needed houses in the first year and a half of its existence.

Common local materials are used for inexpensive construction. Local brick masons act as captains of family labor groups—usually three families per work team per house. Each family, most of whom come from the shanty-towns on the edges of Asuncion, must manage their own workload. They work alongside the masons, volunteers, and other families to develop a sense of responsibility, ownership, pride, and to direct local neighborhood involvement.

Construction work is not the only option for volunteers. Accounting, office management, computer skills, and experience with volunteer coordination or publicity are all useful. Talk with local directors and you will be surprised at the dozens of simple tasks and duties that overworked families require help with.

Contact affiliate Habitat directors via email, attach a resume, and inquire about current schedules of projects and the current need for volunteers for these workloads. Keep in mind the need to cover your own travel, food, local transportation and lodging expenses. Directors are helpful in suggesting ways to minimize these expenses, especially local lodging and food. As in most cases, knowledge of the local language is extremely helpful.

Important Web Sites: For a complete list of affiliate web sites and email contacts in HFHI go to www.habitat.org. Email contact for the HFHI affiliate in Asuncion, Paraguay: habipar@rieder.net.py.

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