Mekong Big Builds 2013 Volunteer Focus

Laura Dunn
Great Britain Team Leader
Chester, England, United Kingdom

Laura Dunn Nepal 2012 050

How did you first become involved with HFH?

“I first became involved with Habitat for Humanity in 2008 when I saw a plea for a team member of my company intranet site. A team from another office in the UK was going to Mozambique later in the year and needed one more person to complete their team. I had been looking for an opportunity to get involved with some overseas volunteering since a trip I had planned to Croatia, when at university, fell through.”

How did your experiences on your first international build compare with the ones you had in Cambodia?

“Every Habitat trip I have been on has been a unique experience so I find it difficult to compare. Every trip will have its challenges and rewards, and every trip its own special moments. Cambodia was my fourth build with Habitat so I suppose I was a little more prepared for what to expect from the Global Village experience. My first trip to Mozambique was my first experience of poverty and a real eye-opener for me. This exposure to poverty and the housing issue facing these families really helped me understand the importance of the work we are doing and it is why I have continued to take part in builds. Cambodia is a beautiful country and every person I met was warm and welcoming, despite its horrific and brutal history it’s a country that is showing strength and resilience, there is something very admirable about that.”


As a Habitat UK Team Leader for this year’s Mekong Big Build here at Smile Village, what was the timeline like for preparing your group, and can you describe what kind of support you got from Bank of America and any other businesses or institutions?

“I began to recruit a team twelve months before the build. I had just returned from a Big Build in Nepal and couldn’t wait to get the next team assembled and assigned to a build. Once I had a team together we focused on fundraising as this is such a big part of the process. Bank of America has given me a great platform for being able to raise the profile of Habitat for Humanity and the work it does. With thousands of employees working at the Chester site I am based at I have worked hard, with my teams, to get the message out to as many people as possible. Bank of America also has a matched giving policy whereby you can match charitable donations pound for pound. This year we had a local construction company donate personal protection equipment to the team which really helped and meant we were also able to donate that to HFH Cambodia [when we departed].”

Can you tell me a little bit about the local work that your HFH group is involved in within the UK?

“The domestic program in the UK is very small and also based in the south of the country so the HFH volunteers from Bank of America [in Chester] are not able to participate in it. However this doesn’t stop us working hard to spread the word and raise the profile of Habitat in our community. Through talking about their experiences and fundraising within the community, the volunteers work to make connections and get people supporting Habitat. Our fundraising doesn’t stop when we have reached our target and we keep going to get as much as we possibly can.”

What type of advice would you give to an HFH affiliate or any other group that might be considering doing an international volunteer project?

“Absolutely do it! The experiences I have had, friendships I have made and lifelong memories I cherish every day are all from working on international projects. Working overseas has given me a greater appreciation of the wider world and the people in it, people who have enriched my life just by knowing them and their story. The first things I always tell a new team, rule number one of a Global Village trip: expect the unexpected. You can go on a trip with an idea of: what to expect, what you will experience and what you will take from it; but I guarantee you will end the trip learning much more than you ever thought possible and taking more from it than you will ever realize. I have been to places I would never have thought to visit and seen more than I could ever see as a tourist.”

996782_10151723887215755_1853949508_n-3In our earlier discussion, you mentioned how your international experiences with HFH had motivated you to make a career change from working at a financial institution like Bank of America, to begin pursuing an education in International Development.Could you elaborate on that a bit; was there one experience in your travels or at home with HFH in particular that led you to this decision, etc?

“It was my second build to Nepal where I really felt like I had found my purpose in life. There was no moment of revelation or a particular thing that sparked this but when I came home I realized that I had felt complete on this trip, this was what I was supposed to be doing. I started thinking about the issues that are facing those in the developing world and comparing them to my comfortable and safe life in the UK. I just want to do something worthwhile and want to leave this earth having made a difference. I know I cannot solve world hunger single-handedly or eradicate poverty housing alone but there is no reason why I can’t do my bit towards that. I am currently completing a degree whilst working to give me some background and skills into understanding international development and how society works so I can hopefully become part of something that will work to change the world we live in for the better.”