Could you image living in a house without proper roofing? Or not having access to even a basic toilet? Unfortunately, this is the reality for countless communities in many parts of the world. From water shortages to the inability to receive education in a functioning classroom, many of the issues pervading communities around the globe can be attributed to the absence of basic infrastructure and facilities.
For this reason there are numerous volunteer abroad opportunities requiring no previous experience available for construction and building projects. These volunteer building projects are key to the development of disadvantaged communities, and all a volunteer needs is his or her hands and a readiness to get out there and work to significantly improve the quality of life of a community in need.
Building volunteers have the chance to get some fresh air, break a sweat, and become acquainted with the geography and people of their respective countries.
Volunteer to Build Homes
Underprivileged and often rural communities do not have proper or sufficient housing. To combat this, volunteer to build homes. Volunteers can help with building roofs, walls, painting, and installation of housing components. Lack of standard housing is a major global issue, and volunteers are needed to assist communities who do not have access to the resources and teams necessary to banish this problem. Apart from helping these communities, as a building volunteer, you will also pick up some useful skills along the way.
Water and Sanitation Projects
Every day, adults and children all over the world suffer from illnesses associated with poor hygiene and unsafe water. Inadequate sanitation facilities and clean sources of water is an urgent global issue that must be addressed. Building volunteers can venture out into villages and help construct toilets from scratch, dig holes for sanitation structures, build clean drinking water storage units, and assemble water tanks for rainwater collection.
Children living in impoverished areas are being denied access to a quality education because their communities do not have schools, or if there are schools, these structures are in a shoddy state. Building volunteers can help perform critical school repairs or assist with the construction of brand new classrooms.
Some of these activities will involve plumbing or carpentry related tasks, while other volunteer building tasks may be combined with actual teaching roles that allow for further participation in educational efforts. These efforts will change the course of children’s lives by providing them with the resources necessary to expand their educations.
Sustainability Building Programs
Our environment has been experiencing intense pressure from human activity, and citizens worldwide are becoming increasingly concerned with sustainability. If you're passionate about our Earth, consider volunteering abroad to help communities become more sustainable.
Among a range of activities, volunteers may find themselves building eco-houses or developing recycling facilities. Environmental volunteers can also contribute to the livelihood of communities by promoting ecotourism, which could entail building and maintaining park trails.
According to UN-Habitat, Africa has the highest slum dweller population, with 71.9% of Africans living in crowded conditions under the same roof and lacking access to safe water, access to sanitation, secure occupancy, the durability of housing, or sufficient living. Many now consider the severe absence of proper housing in Africa, which is only getting worse, to be not only a socio-economic issue, but also a human rights issue.
Because the problem is widespread, volunteers can find building needs abroad in various parts of Africa. There are many building volunteer opportunities in Eastern Africa, for example, where the percentage of the population with access to improved sanitation for some countries is below 20%. Building projects in Africa are focused on building basic infrastructures that provide improved housing, sanitation conditions, and access to schools.
In Asia, construction support is needed primarily in underdeveloped rural areas where villagers are struggling with dilapidated housing and scarcity of community resources such as libraries and schools. South-Central Asia has the second-highest percentage of slum dwellers at 58% and thus needs many of the same infrastructure components, such as sanitation, that African countries are lacking.
The climate of parts of Asia may demand more unique and country-specific building projects. For example, building volunteers in Thailand may help communities prepare themselves for floods during the rainy season by building precautionary structures.
The varied Asian geography also allows for distinct outdoor volunteer settings. Volunteers who enjoy the wilderness can find building projects for tribal communities based in the forests of a mountainous region, and those who love the water can find building needs in a fishing village by the coast.
Latin America is a perfect region for volunteers looking for “green” construction projects. Both Central and South America boast impressive biodiversity, but external threats to the diverse Latin American environment, such as commercial development, are on the rise.
For this reason, there are many opportunities in sustainability and environmental protection. Building volunteers in Latin America can help with reforestation, ecotourism and forest trail maintenance, and the creation of recycling or compost procedures.
The region is also a great location for a host of other building volunteer projects. For instance, there are initiatives in Peru aimed at installing stoves in Peruvian households to lower the rate of respiratory diseases in the Andes region, and volunteers in the country can even learn the adobe building craft if they are more interested in constructing structures like classrooms.
Are you a history buff or admirer of architecture representing hundreds or thousands of years of rich history? Why not head over to Europe to help rehabilitate an ancient French castle or breathe new life into medieval houses and other historic structures?
Volunteers can learn a variety of restoration and archeology techniques that involve stone carving, carpentry, masonry, excavation, and more. Projects are available in multiple European countries, from renovation of a historic railway in Slovakia, to medieval house refurbishment in Italy.
Allowing history to live in these important and intriguing structures through building projects can also be cost-effective. Some programs, for example, will provide accommodation in the location where the restoration project is taking place for free, saving building volunteers a great deal of money on room and board as well as food.
How to Choose a Volunteer Building Project
First, when considering being part of a construction volunteer program you should think about your physical fitness. For example, your ability to lift heavy items, walk up or downstairs, use power tools, and work outside in different weather, etc.
Next, consider your qualifications, previous experience, goals, and what you can contribute Lastly, decide on the length of time. Do you want to be a short-term volunteer or a long-term one?
Most importantly, consider the volunteer building project critically. Is the organization transparent? Do they provide goals and achievements for your construction work while there or do they just want cheap labor? How do they take care of their volunteers with housing and food? These are just some of the questions to ask when considering how to pick the right volunteer program abroad.
Some helpful resources to help you plan a construction volunteer project abroad include:
- UN-HABITAT: The United Nations Human Settlements Programme or UN-HABITAT is the United Nations agency for human settlements. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable communities and providing sufficient shelter for all. Check out their work in a variety of areas including water and sanitation, land and housing, and the environment.
- Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is engaged in numerous construction projects around the world. Their site offers useful information on what building volunteers do and why they should volunteer.
Contributed by Jasmine Foruzani