Building a better world

Gary Armstrong went on his first Habitat for Humanity build in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch went through Central America.“I wanted to do something to help other people, to give back,” said the retired Waterford District High School teacher. “I wanted to go down to Central America to see if I could help out.”That’s when Armstrong found out about Habitat. He applied, was accepted, and went on his first build.“I guess I got hooked on it because I’ve been doing it ever since.”Armstrong has now been on 25 Habitat for Humanity builds all over the world.“At first I thought I was helping other people out, but I think I’m getting more out of it myself,” said Armstrong.  “I really enjoy doing it, it’s certainly a way to get immersed in another culture.”Armstrong eventually became a trip leader and started looking for other people to go on the builds with him.“It all started way back a number of years ago when Gary came and said he needed some volunteers to go on a trip,” said Jean Montgomery of Simcoe. “I was working and wasn’t able to go, but I thought it’d be a good thing for my husband.”Doug Montgomery, Jean’s husband, went on that trip, and has now done 13 builds. Jean has participated in nine.“It’s been a wonderful way to see different cultures, and really experience first hand how people live,” said Jean.This past February, the trio took part in a build in Honduras. Volunteers must pay their own way as well as donating to the build to cover material costs.Doug is also a team leader, and part of that job is to build a team and interview people that have applied to go on the build.“About a year in advance I apply to lead a trip,” said Doug. “Then I start to round up relatives, friends, acquaintances, and past people that I’ve travelled with.”“They can’t believe that people would come from another country and help them build a house,” said Jean. “They’re very appreciative.”Jean and Doug both share a favourite memory from a program called Bring Our Children Home in Chile.During this program they helped build an addition on a house to make space for a four-year-old girl who was living in a hospital hours away from her family, while she was on dialysis.“We went to visit her at the hospital on one of our days,” said Doug. “I have a granddaughter that was four-years-old at the time, and she was just a sweetheart. She came around and hugged everybody.”“To know that she could go home and be home for Christmas, and get her dialysis at home,” Jean said was her favourite moment.astaylor@postmedia.com read more