Working in an American-based tactical operations team which provides emergency communications in the aftermath of disasters, Sue-Lynn Hinson, initially traveled to the Philippines for work-related reasons – to provide data and voice services to Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) affected areas. It was then, the now 46-year-old American citizen turned veteran Habitat for Humanity Philippines (HFHP) volunteer, found herself wanting to do more for these communities, who in her own words, “had lost so much, yet were so generous and kind.”
Sue-Lynn shared her story with us, of how volunteering with Habitat Philippines to help build communities, has transformed her life
“I was so affected by the destruction that I saw (when visiting the Philippines while working), but even more so by the strength and resilience of the Filipino people, and the hope, optimism and determination to help themselves and each other that they showed even in the face of such an extreme calamity, that it moved me to want to help them however I could. I wanted to do more than just donate money – and HFHP’s disaster recovery projects in the typhoon-impacted areas seemed a great way to contribute something tangible to the relief efforts.”
Sue-Lynn says that upon her first volunteer build with HFHP, the group she was volunteering with, “were welcomed into the homes of Yolanda survivors and heard their stories, which were incredible to say the least. On the build site, we realized that many of the workers were themselves Yolanda survivors and had experiences of their own to share. As we worked together, we learned about each other, and by the end of the week I’d had more and deeper conversations with these people than I’ve had with many of my friends back home.”
“By that time I was hooked,” Sue-Lynn exclaimed, “and was already thinking about my next trip before I even got home!”
She said with each build, she not only learned labor-intensive construction skills, but also developed deeper personal and cultural learnings.
“While I gave my time and worked at the sites, I feel like I got so much more in return from the Filipinos I interacted with, who taught me about perseverance and grace. When I was exhausted and felt I couldn’t go on, all I had to do was watch the beneficiaries, some who were women considerably older than myself, who weren’t afraid to get dirty, refused to quit and never complained; and my resolve would be renewed.”
This, she said, significantly changed her perspective on life.
“It has made me realize that my “first world problems” pale in comparison to what many face in their day to day lives just to have adequate shelter, put food on the table and send their children to school. Filipinos in particular have taught me to appreciate what is most important; and that from life and love comes all else. My work with HFHP has brought home the benefits of helping people to help themselves…and has motivated me and made me want to motivate others to do more.”
And doing more is exactly what Sue-Lynn has done. Not only has she built homes by volunteering her precious time, acting as a catalyst in the alleviation of poverty housing, but she is now an advocate for this cause.
“Of all the things that one can provide for a family, I believe that a safe home is one of the most important. I love that building a home is such a tangible thing – at the end of a week, you can clearly see the progress that has been made. But my favorite part of all is working together with the locals – whether it be contractors or home beneficiaries themselves, figuring out a system and helping each other even without speaking the same language – and doing something as a team that not any one of us could accomplish alone.”
If you would like to take part in building homes, communities and hope, alongside people from all walks of life and cultures, you too can volunteer to construct houses and/or raise awareness on the issue of poverty housing by joining Habitat for Humanity Philippines’ annual “Habitat Youth Build” this March 21. For more information, please visit habitat.org.ph or email firstname.lastname@example.org.