The reflection below is from our Global Village trip to the Dominican Republic last month. As of today, Habitat for Humanity International has suspended all Global Village trips through the beginning of May to stay ahead of the growing Coronavirus outbreak. This decision is intended to protect the safety of volunteers and the Habitat communities around the world which may be unprepared to address an outbreak. Twin Cities Habitat sends our warmest thoughts to our global Habitat partners as they work to replace the funds and volunteer time lost due to the trip suspensions. For more information or to see how you can help, please contact email@example.com
Guest blog written by Amy Olson, Global Village Volunteer
"There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met."
-William Butler Yeats.
I found myself often referencing this quote during the time I spent volunteering for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in the Dominican Republic, and thinking a lot about its significance.Prior to February 1, 2020, all but one of the 20 people with whom I spent nearly all my waking time (plus the many wonderful locals, including the homeowner families), were strangers to me. Now, I am invested in their lives and in their stories.
I can picture the current home where Rosario lives with her husband and her five sons. I watched her in her backyard kitchen preparing rice and chicken that she so generously shared with our group. I remember the beaming faces of her sons as they helped paint the walls of their new home, and I imagine what might be happening in their lives today within those new, sturdy walls.
I met other volunteers through Twin Cities Habitat who I am certain will be lifetime friends; in fact it is now unimaginable to me that I could go through the world without knowing them. Meeting strangers is curious in that way.
In her memoir BECOMING, Michelle Obama wrote about how difficult it is to hate from up close. We can make broad statements and hold negative ideas about a group of people—particularly now, in this political climate that wages “us” versus “them." But, spend a four-hour bus ride with any random stranger or open your heart and ears across a table from someone you don’t yet know, and you will never be able to abstract them out of your heart again. When I became a mother, I vividly remember how the lens with which I viewed other people became shaped with more compassion. Everyone, after all, is someone’s child.
Showing up for a trip with Twin Cities Habitat Global Village definitely requires effort, but that is part of what makes it, and anything like it in life, meaningful. I am the person in my family who would rather watch a travel documentary than actually get on a plane and explore a terrain, but it is the human connections that propel me out into the world, as those cannot be lived from afar. Despite this age of unprecedented inter-connectivity, many people’s lives are increasingly isolated.
The Habitat Global Village experience is an antidote to isolation. It is something that cannot be captured in a documentary or on a screen; it is a real experience; a civilized experience. Sharing time and space on a Global Village trip is one of those experiences that brings parts of the world into a more intimate space and transforms strangers into friends.