This Christmas, instead of spending time trading presents with his family, Josh Weston will be jetting off to Nepal to take part in his fourth Habitat for Humanity project.
The 24-year-old Revelstokian started working as a carpenter in grade 12 and has been ticketed since he was 19. He works in northern Alberta, but when he can, he helps on with the Home for the Hunts – a pilot project to bring Habitat for Humanity to Revelstoke.
“It was a no-brainer,” he told me inside the Hunts’ home on Friday. “It’s here, so why not. It’s good to do something in my community instead of traveling away to do it.”
Weston’s first project was in 2011 in the Philippines, where he helped build 11 Habitat homes near the town of Los Banos.
His decision to go there was the result of wanting to do more than just send money to charities.
“I wanted to be on the ground and see what was really happening instead of just sending money away,” he said. “You don’t really know where it goes to.”
He thought working with Habitat would satisfy his itch to travel while also keeping busy. “I’m a bit of a workaholic so it fits into my mantra,” he said.
The homes they built were for an agricultural community that was being set up to help move people away from the over-crowded capital, Manilla. The project’s aim was to create jobs and build homes for people in the Philippines.
He said going there was a shock. The people didn’t speak as much English as he thought, and he was struck by the poverty and inequality in the country.
While there, he got to connect with locals and see parts of the country tourists don’t usually see.
“I’d never been anywhere poverty-stricken like that before, where people are sitting on the side of the freeway and buildings are crumbling,” he said.
Weston’s second Habitat for Humanity project was in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. There he helped build homes in order to relieve the territory’s housing crunch.
“That site was a bit better because you actually got to see the people getting a home,” he said. “This one you actually got to meet the family that was going to get it and see the appreciation. There was that connection you had with the homeowner that was different, which you didn’t get in the Philippines.”
Weston said volunteering with Habitat for Humanity gives him a sense his work is worth something, where in his normal job in the oil fields, he gets no sense he’s making a difference.
“The people there, it’s very depressing – divorces, drugs, addictions,” he said. “You get on these projects and it’s rejuvenating. It restores your hope in humanity.”
For him, volunteering is a matter of taking the time off and finding a place on Habitat’s list of locations to go to. He said most people he’s volunteered with aren’t in the construction field – they’re doctors, nurses, and office professionals.
You don’t need any construction expertise to do the work and most of the homes he’s built are pretty basic.”You just have to get your flights there and someone picks you up and takes you to the site,” he said.
The Revelstoke Home for the Hunts project is still accepting volunteers for their Friday and Saturday build days, and also need financial donations to help complete the project. Find them online at homeforethehunts.com or contact Cindy Pearce at 250-837-3966.