In this week’s blog, I’m going to take a break from building science. Instead of providing advice to green builders, I’m simply going to reminisce about my time as a construction volunteer in Armenia.
To introduce this topic, I might have discussed some of the common mistakes made by international aid agencies and charitable organizations. I might have elaborated on the truism that Americans who volunteer overseas often get more lasting benefits from their work than the villagers they try to serve. I might have presented a cogent thesis explaining why green building must have a social justice component.
Instead, I decided to just tell my story, without any morals or conclusions.
If you are a builder, and your schedule and financial situation are flexible enough to allow you to volunteer overseas, I urge you to do so. Just go — to Haiti, to Central America, to Africa, to Asia. Go for a week, for a month, or for a year. Your skills are needed. You won’t regret it.
A family tradition
When I was growing up, I was influenced by role models in my family. In 1947, my mother and father joined a group of volunteers on a construction project in a war-ravaged region of France. Years later, my mother was a Peace Corps volunteer in St. Kitts. My sister Cathy and brother-in-law Mike were Peace Corps volunteers in Tunisia; my brother Peter and sister-in-law Elana have volunteered in Tanzania and Mexico; my niece Mara has volunteered at a women’s center in Bolivia; my sister Meg is now volunteering at a school in Haiti; and my son Moses is now a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador.
Between April 1990 and March 1992, I spent 17 months in Armenia. I worked on…