In 2005, Barbara Lesage was completing her MBA at the University of Calgary while working full-time for a multinational corporation. After graduating, she says she found herself with way too much free time on her hands. She knew she needed something else to put her energy into, but she didn’t expect a luncheon featuring former U.S. President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker to help her find it.

Inspired by President Clinton’s speech about the importance of volunteering, Barbara went home feeling motivated to make a difference but unsure of where to start. That’s when she did what most people would do in her position – she Googled. A quick search of volunteer opportunities abroad led her to Habitat for Humanity Canada’s Global Village program.

Having never travelled outside of North America, Barbara was a bit nervous about joining her first Global Village trip to Brazil. She decided to “dip a toe” to see what it was like, but it wasn’t long before she jumped right in. She enjoyed that first trip so much that she decided to sign up for a Global Village trip every year, and she’s since travelled to places like China, Sri Lanka and Nepal to help build homes alongside local families.

Why take part in a Habitat Global Village trip?

While helping to provide strength, stability and self-reliance to a family in need of a safe and decent place to live, Habitat Global Village volunteers become immersed in the local culture.

“It enhances an individual’s understanding of the world,” says Barbara. “We are not all the same, but you don’t have to speak the native language to understand our similarities and differences.”

What to expect if you join Barbara on her next trip to China (August 19 to 30, 2017):

In partnership with China’s Disabled Persons’ Federation and the Chinese government, the local Habitat will provide housing for disabled families throughout the countryside.

Like all of Habitat’s Global Village volunteers, Barbara’s team will work alongside the future homeowners – mixing and pouring concrete, bending rebar and laying brick – to help build their home. But they won’t be expected to go straight to work.

It’s a big deal for the community to have the team there, which is why they’ll be welcomed with a large cultural ceremony that includes traditional music and cuisine.

“It’s very touching and it can be quite emotional for the team members, especially if it’s their very first build,” says Barbara.

To join Barbara’s upcoming trip to China or to learn more about it, please visit habitatglobalvillage.ca.