Guest Post

Being a Habitat for Humanity Team Leader (Guest Post)

I love travel. Seeing pictures of the wonders in this world is not enough

‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime’ Mark Twain

Several years ago I joined my husband and then 11 year old daughter for a safari in Tanzania. This was the first time that we had travelled since our honeymoon in Thailand. While the wildlife viewing was stupendous, I was stricken with guilt. Our tour was a camping trip so was less luxurious than a lodge safari. However we still had a personal cook and a driver/guide for the duration of the safari and helpers at every campsite so that we didn’t have to lift a finger. We were literally walled away from any local inhabitants. Driving by children lugging huge jugs of water home from school was routine.

Finally an incident cemented my resolve to never travel again without contributing a lasting footprint in the country that I was visiting. With good intentions we handed our uneaten lunches out of the window to some children waiting outside of the gate of a game park. To our horror only the quickest and the strongest were able to receive any food.

So began my mission to find an organization that would fit my skills and my availability. As a respiratory therapist I am too specialized to be of use in most primary health initiatives. While small children are cute and wonderful I wanted to do more than be a helper in an orphanage. Enter the Global Village volunteer program that sends team to observe and participate first hand with Habitat for Humanity’s affiliate partners in 100 countries. Low-income families are assisted to build their home with volunteer labour, donated materials and no-profit, no-interest mortgages tailored to their income level.

What is appealing to me is that each program is unique to the local needs. We do not try to force our values on the community and we work with the local contractors following their instructions for what tasks are to be done.

In December 2012, I was a co-leader of a team of 17 people to the Chitwan area of Nepal. This Habitat affiliate there partners with a women’s collective that provides micro loans to the women in households (even if they have a spouse). The collective ensures that the loans are supported by a business plan such as room rentals , aesthetic services, or retail. That year 400 homes were built.

Surprisingly, on most build projects women form the majority of the teams. Perhaps 25% of the team members are men. I will not speculate here on the reason here but that is just a fact. I have seen women happily step out of their comfort zones and get dirty mixing cement manually with a shovel and lifting and carrying trays of materials for hours on end.

This past summer on a build project in Portugal I was amazed to hear whoops of joy coming from an adjoining room. Is sounded like something you would hear at an amusement park! The cause was several school teachers and a retired accountant demolishing a cement floor with a jack hammer. That day it was difficult to get them to leave their tasks to take a lunch break.

My next project is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 30-April 11, 2014. As a team leader I can choose the time and place for my projects. After becoming fascinated by the culture and history of the country the Canadian office approached the Ethiopian affiliate on my behalf with my proposed dates and I was approved to bring a team of 12 people. At the time of writing I have 6 team members so I would invite you to visit my webflyer to apply for this opportunity, at

tammy3 tammy2 tammy1


Tammy Carter lives in the Canadian capital city of Ottawa with her husband and teenaged children and works as a Respiratory Therapist in a busy ICU. At 47 years old she has parented 11 foster children, participated on 4 international volunteer projects, and can deadlift twice her bodyweight. With no athletic ability prior to age 41 she has been affectionately known as ‘The Unlikely Bodybuilder’ and has competed in 8 physique competitions bringing some top 3 hardware. As an accidental feminist she just finds what inspires her and goes for it.