Taking the leap into voluntourism

Castlegar residents lend a hand overseas.

The Gatenby’s of Castlegar have returned from a recent trip to Costa Rica. There time spent abroad was used for house building and helping the local communities.

By Rosemary Manarin

Kim Gatenby and her daughter Megan, of Castlegar, have just returned from working on a Habitat for Humanity house build in Costa Rica.

They joined the Canadian house building team through the Global Village department of Habitat Canada.

They decided to go on a volunteering holiday that would benefit others while offering the appeal of adventure.

Kim said it was everything they hoped for.

“It was amazing!”

This is their account:

“After several hours in our mini bus, we settled in at Buenes Aires, a city in south central Costa Rica where we helped to build a house for a local family. Our team of 12 worked together diligently and determinedly on providing the Costa Rican family with a much improved home.

“I mention determinedly because the first day it rained and we worked on even though there was mud everywhere. Most days were sunny, however, although hot and humid.

“The building style was very basic but quick and not too labour intensive. Most of our time was spent digging holes for the concrete footings and the concrete slab system, the septic tank and drainage field and then wheel-barrelling gravel.

“It was fun even though we worked hard. Early on, there was jovial camaraderie among the team members and the family, always helping in some way; we’re so happy we were there.

“Our team aged from 17 to 70 came together with great positive energy. We were able to cope with the heat because cool drinking water was always available, shade was nearby and the family, especially the abuela, was a joy to be around!”

One of Kim’s favourite parts of the trip was the social and cultural exchange with the family and making newfound friends.

One night there was a soccer game, Canada vs. Costa Rica.

“They kicked our butts! It was so much fun and lots of laughter,” said Kim. “We enjoyed dance lessons from the locals.” Megan loved the time they went up with the family to explore a beautiful natural hot springs in the hills. They were the only ones there in the bush.

During her interview with the team leader pre-trip, he had said it would be a life changing experience. Kim verifies, “He was so right!”

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization, which helps to build homes for low income families. The family has 10 years to pay back an interest free loan. Through regular bank loans these families would not be able to afford the interest rates. The mission of Habitat Canada is to enable families to live in a safe and decent home and enable homeownership.

For the traveler who likes adventure and wishes an especially enriching holiday experience, Habitat Canada offers trip options in 40 countries worldwide through their Global Village department.

 

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