Over the last eight years, our Rotary Club of St Johns have sent teams of seven to assist with local builds at either Habitat for Humanity's South Auckland pre-assembly site at Wiri or onsite plus members also join teams to other countries.
Picture:  Club member, Gary Key, at the hand-over ceremony to Habitat for Humanity house owner Pradip and his family in Nepal
We give a day’s volunteer labour, where we work with a Habitat supervisor and in most cases one or more of the family who will benefit from the house. The business model used by Habitat NZ is, once they identify the appropriate family, a modest deposit is needed and the family are required to put in a prescribed number of sweat equity hours during the build. At completion, the family pay a modest rental until they have paid the house off, at which stage ownership is transferred to the family.
In mid-2014, I saw an article in the local East and Bays Courier newspaper, inviting people interested in joining a global build in Nepal in November that year. As I had already been familiar with Habitat locally and felt they had a good business model, I signed up for the trip. After doing that, I spread the word around my contacts at Rotary, and got fellow St Johns Rotarian Gary Key plus Past District 9920 Governor Willard Martin to join me.
This turned out to be a once in a lifetime experience … or so I thought at that time. Our team leader was Conrad la Pointe from Habitat in NZ, who ably lead us through the build and following tour.
That build was a large international team of about 330 from all around the world, of which NZ made up 103. The objective was to relocate a community of families living in inadequate housing to a near-by location in the Chetwin area near the India-Nepal border. At the end of the week long build, the teams had 80% completed about 34 houses, 8 of which were built by NZ teams. During the build week, the NZ contingent stayed at the same hotel, so strong camaraderie developed and the NZ teams were very visible onsite, with flags proudly flying.
Post the build, there where various tour options provided by the Habitat travel consultant. About 30 of our team chose the adventurous option, that included exploring the Chetwin wildlife park on elephant, where we saw rhinos and a leopard. We then travelled north to do a two day tramp up to the high country where we got stunning views of the Himalayas and ended in Kathmandu, unfortunately how it used to be, prior to the horrendous earthquake on April 25 last year. All together an amazing trip, changing families’ lives and creating great new friendships.
On our return, we shared our fantastic experiences with St Johns Rotary club and there was great enthusiasm from some other members to join Gary and me on our next adventure. This was to Buenos Aires, Argentina in November 2015. Conrad was going to lead this team again, but his promotion with Habitat did not allow this, so Gary Key, ably assisted by me, lead two house teams of eight each. Of these 16 volunteers, half were Rotarians from various Rotary clubs around Auckland, so the word had got out. Again the build was a week long and we were accommodated right in the heart of Buenos Aires, so each night after the build, we enjoyed the amazing food and vibrancy of this bustling city. The build involved laying concrete foundations and block work. Both teams made significant progress for the families, but there was plenty more for others to do after then.   
After that build, the team headed off south to the Patagonian ice fields and walked two glaziers, including the famous Perito Moreno, then went further south to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the most southern part of Argentina by Cape Horn. There we tramped through the National Park and did a crazy 4 wheel drive safari.  Also, as a result of our last trip St Johns have gained new young member Peggy Ang from the team.
Again on return, we all shared our stories with Rotary.  St Johns Rotary’s Habitat for Humanity builds in Nepal and Argentina was a finalist project in District 9920’s Project Excellence Award at our April 2016 District Conference on the Gold Coast of Australia. 
I was warned when I got into this Habitat work, that it can become habitual. For Gary and me, this has been the case.
We are now well advanced in planning our next trip to North Vietnam in mid-November, where two teams of 12 will build two houses, followed again by an amazing travel adventure – there are only two seats left!  If you are keen to join us in Vietnam, contact me via +64 27 446 9225 or m-cain@ihug.co.nz.   
This is a great example of how two voluntary organisations can work together changing lives and making a difference.