Trip to Mongolia builds houses and confidence

17:00, May 02 2013
colleen bennett
MONGOLIAN EXPERIENCE: Colleen Bennett says being part of a Habitat for Humanity build was life changing.

Colleen Bennett is an experienced businesswoman whose products are exported all over the world.

But even the most self-assured person might feel out of their depth being asked to build a house from scratch in Mongolia.

Ms Bennett put herself in this position willingly as part of a Habitat for Humanity trip in July 2012.

"I'd had a few crossroads in my life and I wanted to do something. The amazing thing about it was I got so much more out if it than I had ever imagined.

"I had always relied on other people to do things for me. When I got up there, I had to do everything myself.

"With every nail I hammered in, my confidence grew," she says.


"I might look like a confident person but I wasn't confident about getting on a plane with 50 other people I didn't know."

She needn't have worried. There were 220 volunteers from all over the world, including the team of 54 from New Zealand. Each evening the group would get together for a drink and a chat. There was time to explore the country at the end of the build.

"It was so well organised. I couldn't fault Habitat at all."

Each team of 11 had their own house to build.

"There was no-one on my team with any building experience. We were led by an ex-farmer and even he was reading from the manual.

"My friends and family would tell you it was life changing for me. I came back with so much confidence because I discovered I can do things I didn't think I could do.

"It is hard work but so rewarding," she says.

"When I flew out I looked down on Mongolia and felt I was leaving something worthwhile behind."

Ms Bennett's looking forward to the next adventure, which will involve building 35 houses in South Vietnam. It's a rural build in the Mekong Delta, six hours drive south of Ho Chi Minh City, and will be held from August 3 to 10. She will be part of an international team of about 250 people.

Habitat for Humanity is an international non-profit organisation which aims to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness by building adequate and basic housing, both in New Zealand and overseas.

The organisation needs 90 New Zealanders to volunteer for the Vietnam trip in August. The estimated cost is $4800 which includes airfares, accommodation, meals during the build, airport transfers, compulsory medical insurance and a contribution towards the cost of future projects. No building skills are required.

Contact Conrad on 271 3357 or if you're interested in the trip.

East And Bays Courier