Businessman builds habitat for humanity

01:43, Jan 31 2009
AFRICAN ADVENTURE: Can they build them? Yes they can. From left, Marty van der Burg, Kevin Bruce and Sebastian Masset-Glencross are set to make homes for needy families in Ethiopia.

What do an art student, a police officer, four builders and a barrista have in common? Just ask Marty van der Burg.

"Everyone in the world deserves a decent home," the 39-year-old building company owner says.

The group of volunteers, aged 21 to 73, will build mudbrick homes for needy families with non-profit group Habitat for Humanity.

Mr van der Burg, a director of the organisation's greater Auckland division, decided to act after visiting the troubled African nation with his family last year.

"I found out it only costs $2500 to build a home over there, so I decided to put into practice what I preach," the One Tree Hill resident says.

Through adverts, word-of-mouth and industry connections, Mr van der Burg formed a group and set a leaving date of October 4.


The mission - to build 10 houses in four weeks.

The team supplies the labour and Habitat for Humanity the resources and land - a cost the new homeowners must pay back, interest-free.

"It's about a hand-up not a handout," Mr van der Burg says.

"A lot of people don't live in homes, let alone own them. This means they have that opportunity."

Mr van der Burg got involved with Habitat for Humanity four years ago after helping organise a group of tradesmen to rebuild a home in south Auckland.

He then joined an initiative called Building Blitz, which saw five homes built for struggling families by 100 volunteers, including six of his staff.

Each of the volunteers heading to Ethiopia is expected to contribute $2500.

That will cover living expenses and the rest will go to Habitat for Humanity.

"It's about helping people, but it's also going to be an amazing experience," fellow volunteer Kevin Bruce says.

The 38-year-old Ponsonby resident, who also owns a building company, signed up after reading an article about Mr van der Burg.

"I said to my wife I'd really like to get involved with something like that one day. She said: 'Well why not do it now'?"

Mr Bruce has never been to Africa and bought a Lonely Planet guide to familiarise himself with his destination.

But fortunately the father-of-three hasn't had to fork out for the travel costs.

Mr van der Burg raised the cost of the groups' flights, about $55,000.

"I'm a good talker," he says.

Habitat for Humanity greater Auckland executive director Warren Jack agrees.

"Marty is a real enthusiast, a mover and a shaker," he says.

About 150 Kiwis build homes around the world through Habitat for Humanity each year.

"It's a Western ideology to just send money - our way is more effective," Mr van der Burg says.

"We eat, we laugh and we play with the people we are helping.

"We use our own sweat and blood to make a difference."

Central Leader