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3 min read

Global Engagement, Local Connections: A Service Honeymoon Story

Global Engagement, Local Connections: A Service Honeymoon Story

Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) works in more than 70 countries worldwide. As a local affiliate of HFHI, Twin Cities Habitat has five partner affiliates outside the US: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. This past spring, a group of twelve representatives (staff, Board members, and other supporters) from Twin Cities Habitat traveled to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, for a Global Village trip to support Habitat’s 100,000 Floors to Play On initiative. The project aims to replace 100,000 dirt floors with concrete by 2028 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Twin Cities Habitat Board member Godson Sowah and his wife Jessy were part of this spring’s Global Village trip. The week in Santo Domingo was the first leg of their honeymoon—a fact they didn’t share with the rest of the group until they were all on site!

How It Happened

Jessy, a second-generation Puerto Rican and Dominican, grew up in New York City and Godson originally from Accra, Ghana, has been a resident of Minnesota for 15 years.

Jessy and Godson first met at the JFK airport, while waiting in line to board a Delta flight. The flight was oversold and both of them being “seize-the-moment” type of travelers, jumped in line to offer their seats; even though Jessy was heading to Ghana, for the first time, for a close friend’s wedding and Godson was visiting home to spend the holidays with his family. Jessy broke the ice offering free tips on how to negotiate the flight volunteer perks. Fortunately, the gate crew had enough volunteers, so they made it onto the flight and parted ways, without exchanging names nor phone numbers; only a brief moment of smiles. As serendipity will have it, these two airport strangers ran into each other two days later in a city of over 5 million people. Eventually, Godson got a chance to ask Jessy out on a quick date on New Year’s Eve and she reluctantly accepted. After a few long-distance dates serendipity struck again! The COVID pandemic had reached global crisis and in the weeks and months that followed, their relationship evolved into a classic pandemic love story – from strangers, to survivalists, to remote workers, to friends, and to life partners Godson had finished serving his term on the Board of Avenues for Homeless Youth. In late 2022, he learned that Habitat was looking for new board members.

“I knew of Habitat; we’re dealing with the same type of affordable housing issues,” Godson said. “Habitat felt like a good fit, a good progression from working on homelessness to long-term housing for Black and Latino and low-income families. I feel like housing is foundational to establishing a family, to good health care, to education—it’s a launching pad. I think what Habitat is doing has a multiplier effect in solving issues.”

Godson joined the Habitat Board in February of 2023, as he and Jessy were considering wedding and honeymoon options. They learned that Twin Cities Habitat was planning its first Global Village trip since before the pandemic—to the Dominican Republic—and Godson told Jessy about the opportunity to join the trip as a service honeymoon.

Godson and Jessy posting at the Hard Hat and Black Tie Gala photo booth.Godson and Jessy at the 2023 Hard Hat & Black Tie Gala.

Connections On Site

A highlight of the experience for both Godson and Jessy was seeing the significant impact their team made in a short amount of time. “It wasn’t just volunteers from outside the country,” said Jessy. “The homeowners worked on it with us, which gave them such pride. It was hot, exhausting work mixing concrete by hand, but everyone worked with a smile on their face.”

Godson said, “When you have people from very different walks of life, the ability to be well-aligned on the end game was key. We all put our best foot forward, set aside differences, and prioritized being inclusive. It was a case study on how you bring together a team with different strengths and weaknesses and backgrounds: as long as you’re aligned on the mission you can get a lot accomplished.”

“Motivating each other every day was absolutely critical. If you join a Global Village build trip as a volunteer, you’re not just giving back; you’re developing important skills that you can apply in a career or workplace, or even with your family, which I think is very powerful.”

Jessy added, “We got to spend time together in a capacity we never had before. It truly brought out the best in us and everyone.”

2023 Global Village crew posing in a group photo outside a house they worked on.

Jessy and Godson pose outside a home with the rest of the Global Village crew. 

Godson said, “Our relationships, especially with other Board members, became more intimate seeing everybody in a vulnerable state and yet very real and engaged.

People think of volunteering as “making time to serve others,” but I think you have to give something that will make you a bit uncomfortable. Think about giving in a way that really stretches you. Whether it stretches your wallet or your imagination, you want to do something that has real impact.”

Godson added, “I would encourage others to get out of our comfort zones. If you’re on vacation sitting on a beach for five days, maybe you can squeeze this [Global Village build] in as well and make a real impact.”

While no Global Village trips are being planned right now, there are many ways to follow Godson and Jessy’s example and “give in a way that really stretches you.” Check out all the options on our volunteer page and sign up today!

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