Local Habitat for Humanity volunteers for build trip to Vietnam | VailDaily.com

Local Habitat for Humanity volunteers for build trip to Vietnam

Andrew Donilon
Special to the Daily

VIETNAM — The Vail Valley Habitat for Humanity affiliate has joined volunteers from around the world for a Global Village Build Trip to Vietnam.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley organized an international Global Village build trip to Vietnam in October 2016. Eight Eagle County locals joined approximately 200 others from the U.S., New Zealand, Hong Kong and a number of other countries.

Throughout the course of five days, 20 homes were built in a small rice farming village with Vietnamese families, many of whom suffered from disabilities or other hardships in their lives.

The trip to Vietnam was my first experience volunteering abroad, and I was not sure what to expect. I had questions: How would Americans be received decades after the Vietnam War? Should I travel half-way around the world to do humanitarian work when there is plenty of need here at home? By the end of my trip, my questions were answered.

The Vietnamese people I met were some of the friendliest, welcoming, hard-working individuals I had ever encountered. Building alongside Team Vail were the husband and wife who would be living in the home. We met three of their children; two girls, ages 12 and 9 and a 4-year-old boy. We were introduced to the family's 80-year-old grandmother. Her back was shaped like an "S" from a life of hard work in the rice fields. We built with a local construction crew that was incredibly patient with our slower pace. We became great friends with our house coordinator who acted as our translator, tour guide, and even pity-laughed at all of our bad jokes.

The work was hard and it was hotter than blazes. We spent most of our time mixing concrete and mortar by hand, and transporting and laying bricks. What physical advantage we gained from coming from Vail at 8,000 feet to sea level was canceled out by the humidity. I spent most of the day looking like I had just jumped in a swimming pool while wearing clothes.

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Team Vail persevered, though. Our awesome crew encouraged each other and everyone brought a positive attitude. The local Vietnamese construction crew motivated us with their relentless work ethic. The husband, wife and children who would be moving into the house fueled us with fresh fruit, green tea and smiles of appreciation.

I ultimately spent more hours traveling to Vietnam than actually building, but the lasting impact of this trip was more than building houses, it was about making human connections and spreading goodwill.

Throughout the week our group shared many smiles, laughs, hugs and tears of joy with the Vietnamese locals. Despite our different languages, culture, experiences and countries' histories we were able to find common ground with each other as people. We connected over the fundamental need for all families — to have a safe shelter to call home.

Andrew Donilon is the volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley.

To volunteer

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley organizes a Global Village Build Trip each year. If you are interested in learning about future trips, please contact Andrew Donilon at andrew@habitatvailvalley.org or 970-748-6718 ext. 127.