Monthly Archives: January 2013

departure preparations

The fundraising is complete and the final departure preparations are winding down.  Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues, we raised enough money for the trip contributions, including extra funding for special supplies that we will bring to the local families and schools.


Our Habitat for Humanity of Dane County team will be headed to Ahuachapan, El Salvador this Saturday for the Global Village build trip. We will be building homes during a 10 day program helping low income and deserving Salvadoran families. The group will build side by side with the Salvadoran families. The group leaves on Feb. 2 and returns on Feb. 10.

Our team of 23 volunteers is part of a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of El Salvador and Habitat for Humanity of Dane County.  The partnership includes awareness, financial support for housing needs in El Salvador and a three-year volunteer building program. Leadership of the two groups will meet in El Salvador to share ideas and best practices.

Habitat for Humanity of Dane County will head back to El Salvador in 2014 and 2015. Read below  or click the HFH DC links to learn more about our partnership with El Salvador.

Habitat Board approves El Salvador Partnership
Twelve El Salvador families will become homeowners in the next three years thanks to the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. The Habitat Dane Board of Directors approved a three-year agreement with Habitat El Salvador at its July meeting. The agreement states that HFHDC will provide Habitat El Salvador $28,000 per year for three fiscal years starting in fiscal year 2013.

By fiscal year 2015, the $84,000 will construct 12 homes in El Salvador. According to the agreement, HFHDC may sponsor up to four volunteer teams per year through the Habitat Global Village Program in order to support the construction of these homes in El Salvador and to provide opportunities to interact with and learn from Habitat El Salvador staff.

John Stolzenberg, a member of the HFHDC Tithe Committee, said the committee wanted to be “more intentional” in its tithing efforts and to focus more on one country.

Habitat El Salvador, Stolzenberg said, has a strong, innovative staff, that are very well organized in their building efforts.

Ann Eaves, another committee member, added that El Salvador is growing economically and that corporations in the United States are doing more business with the country. “It’s a good fit for us,” she said.

Stolzenberg has taken or been an assistant leader for five teams of volunteers to the El Salvador in the last six years. He said the trips have been a “fun and exciting way” to reenergize himself and he’s learned a great deal about global poverty. “The trip has been much more than a Habitat construction project. To me, it’s been a real eye opener on poverty in the world.”


Sustainability in El Salvador


I wish it weren’t, but it’s easy to forget that people elsewhere see and do things differently.  The arrogance is in assuming that our approach is the only way.

When a student asked me how to handle a difference of opinion in a third world country. I responded, “It depends.”

The student described a situation where he was on a work trip to Guatemala and helping a local laborer paint a house.  The laborer dipped a large piece of cloth in the paint and threw it up against the house exterior.  Standing next to the laborer, the student picked up a roller handle, gently rolled it in the pan of paint, and then meticulously rolled the paint on the wall.  The laborer went about his business with the cloth and ignored the roller.

41-largeThe student grew frustrated and tried again to demonstrate how the roller worked.  When he finished telling his story I asked, “Why do you think the laborer kept about his business?” He answered, “Though it may be inefficient to us, it is the way it has been done for many years.”  I asked, “Will this scenario put anyone into danger or cause the building to fail?”  He’d realized that this was a good example of when to let it go and set our ego aside.


I still struggle with how to handle a difference of opinion when visiting another culture.  It is important to remember that we are the guest and to show respect.  I reflect on this when preparing for my El Salvador trip, less than a month away.  Part of a new sustainability initiative for the established partnership with Habitat for Humanity El Salvador, I wonder what sustainability means to them.


When I asked our trip organizer, “How do I prepare for our meetings on sustainability with the HFH El Salvador staff architect?”, he responded with the outline below.

Meeting to Explore Shared Sustainability Interests under the HFHDC/HFHES Partnership:


– Primary – information exchange

– Determine if there are any areas/topics appropriate for follow up under the partnership


–  Respect cultural and economic differences

– Respond to the needs and priorities of our partners at HFH El Salvador; don’t push solutions we may be enamored with but that are not appropriate for them.


– Current and anticipated sustainability practices in new house and lot construction

– Financial implications of sustainability practices

– Designing Habitat houses to accommodate changing uses over time

– Preparations for adapting to climate change and weird weather events

hfh-el-salvadorOut of all the items, I think that Approach is the most important.  Without a mutual respect, nothing can be accomplished. Sincerely hoping for an exchange  where as we can learn how to best provide what they need, not what we think they need.