Worldwide, it's estimated that 1.6 billion people don't have adequate housing. Numbers like that can make you feel helpless—but there is a tangible way to help. That's what more than a thousand Canadians do each year when they volunteer abroad with Habitat for Humanity Canada Global Village. Constructing safe and affordable homes for people in need of housing isn't just an opportunity to give back—it's a chance to learn about yourself.

"We have countless volunteers who come back saying, 'This is exactly what I needed to look at things differently,'" says Donald Taylor, Habitat for Humanity Canada's Director of Global Village.

What exactly is Habitat for Humanity Global Village and why are volunteers needed?

Both locally and globally, Habitat for Humanity Canada helps low-income families build homes by providing donated building materials and no-profit, no-interest mortgages tailored to their income.

Habitat Canada also provides volunteer labour. Through Habitat Global Village, teams of 10 to 20 volunteers travel to construct housing alongside local community members. While the commitment itself only lasts one to two weeks, these volunteers' contributions are felt long after they return home.

How does Habitat for Humanity Canada ensure its trips are making a positive local impact that's also sustainable?

With builds initiated by Habitat for Humanity partners in over 40 countries, ultimately it's the local community and families taking ownership of the projects.

"Our approach is not to go in and tell people what to do, but to say, 'I'm here to help; where do you need me?'" explains Taylor. "We work to create trips that are meaningful to the participants and genuinely needed by our partners in the community."

It's an inherently sustainable model. Habitat families don't receive free homes—instead, they purchase and participate in the construction of their house, which fosters pride and dignity. As mortgages are repaid, that money is used to build more houses for those in need. This doesn't just mean more people with roofs over their heads—it also means a stimulated local economy, with more jobs for local tradespeople.

Do I need construction skills to participate?

"You don't need building experience—what you need is the ability to open your mind up wide," says Taylor.

Every Habitat Global Village trips is different—sometimes you'll build from the ground up, digging footings, laying bricks or raising walls. Other times, you'll arrive to find a home already partially constructed. Or, you may not be building a home at all—some community-initiated projects focus on infrastructure and other local needs, such as creating smokeless stoves or community latrines.

Regardless of the project, the only prerequisites you need are a sense of adventure and willingness to work hard.

How do I sign up?

Once you've made your choice, you can apply online through habitatglobalvillage.ca. Each trip is led by a team leader, who will contact you after you apply to discuss the details of the trip. Signing up for a Habitat Global Village trip is easy—the hard part is deciding what project to participate in.

With year-round departure dates and projects worldwide, you could volunteer anywhere from Fiji, which was recently devastated by a cyclone, to Jordan, where the majority of the population lives on less than $5,000 USD per year. Or, you could give back in your own backyard on one of Habitat Global Village's Canadian builds, such as in an Indigenous community in the North.

Once you've signed up for a Habitat Global Village trip, the next step on your journey will be life-changing: boarding a plane to your destination, where you'll help provide a family with a safe, decent and affordable place to call home.

"Taking a trip with Habitat Global Village is an opportunity to get to the heart of what we're supposed to be doing on the planet—and that's helping people," says Taylor.

To sign up for Habitat Global Village trip, visit habitat.ca/globalvillage or email us at globalvillage@habitat.ca. Then find out why a Habitat Global Village trip should be on your bucket list!