Habitat for Humanity, Cape Town, South Africa
One of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I've participated in was building a home in a township outside Cape Town, South Africa. This was my second visit in five years and I witnessed a vast improvement in the rebuilding of these communities.
Habitat for Humanity sends a paid team and a foreman with construction experience. With all things, more hands make easy work and we accomplish in hours what may otherwise take days. Our team was tasked with the physical labor under careful supervision.
The townships were historically built with corrugated aluminum siding, reclaimed wood and plastic sheeting. Entire families share the small space with no running water. The Nelson Mandela Foundation started rebuilding with tenement housing and single family homes. Even still, three bedroom apartments would easily house three entire families. Most would share one mattress per room and use the small communal space for cooking.
All in all, the health of the community is improving. Schools are getting better. Access to proper water sources and health care is remarkably better. These small gains are still masking the horrible inequality and segregation that plagues South Africa despite the end of Apartheid over two decades ago.