This page contains all of the information that was provided to team members on the China team. It has been condensed to one long page (for the sake of website design) now that the trip is complete!
HFH IN CHINA
Our specific Global Village build will be in Conghua, which is located about 1.5 hours outside of Guangzhou City. Our build will be part of Habitat China’s “Eliminating mud houses for low-income families” Project in Conghua. Shuiweidong village in Conghua has been a particular focus for Habitat China.
Below is information graciously provided by the staff of Habitat China:
Habitat for Humanity China started to serve in China in 2005, we currently has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces. By the end of 2010, we have built and renovated houses for more than 2500 families in China, which includes rebuilding nearly 1500 houses for families affected by the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan.
Although Guangdong is one of the most rapidly developing provinces in China, it is also an area that has the most visible polarization of the rich and poor. According to the government statistics, more than 10 million people and 2 million families in Guangdong province are living in primitive and dangerous houses made of mud brick walls with ceramic tile roofs or thatch roofs. These houses have no sanitation or ventilation systems, and often house both the family and livestock together. Not only are the houses uncomfortable and unhygienic, they are also vulnerable to the floods and typhoons that regularly affect this area.
In Shuiweidong village alone, approx. 400 residents in 110 families are living in this kind of mud houses. This village is located in the mountains of Conghua, which is 60 kilometers northeast from the provincial capital city of Guangzhou. Most villagers are subsistence farmers relying upon rice and various fruits for livelihood. Some of them work in shops and factories in nearby towns for extra income. Annual per capita income in the area is roughly US $400.
The villagers are keen to transform their mud houses into permanent ones built with baked-brick walls and reinforced-concrete roofs, which is a most popular structural design for permanent houses in rural area.
Habitat for Humanity China began its operation in Guangdong province in 2005 to help alleviate rural poverty with a focus on vulnerable populations and those affected by natural disasters. To date, we have built 357 homes in over twenty villages in the districts of Heyuan, Huazhou, Meizhou, Shaoguan and Conghua.
This year we are planning to build houses for the 110 families in Shuiweidong village in Conghua. The construction will commence in this July and is anticipated to complete by early next year. In addition to building homes, we will help improve the infrastructure of communities, such as installing sewage drainage systems and piping for safe water drinking water, building community centers, etc.. Additionally, more effective planning will lead to a greater separation of people and animals and dramatically increase hygiene while reducing disease and illness. In this way, we will help transform the existing unsafe and unhygienic village into secure and healthy community.
BASICS: FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, MONEY
Breakfast will be eaten before we depart for the worksite each day; there will be a break every day at the worksite for lunch. Water and snacks will also be available daily at the worksite. The evening meals will most likely be eaten at local restaurants in Conghua- get ready for some delicious local cuisine!
If you have any special dietary needs (allergies, diabetic requirements, vegetarian, etc.) please let me know so that provisions can be made to assure your needs are met.
Visitors generally should not drink tap water in Conghua; bottled water is very accessible and will be provided both on the worksite and off.
We will be staying at the Jing Quan Hotel in Conghua- team members will share double or triple rooms with A/C and hot showers.
You may leave items such as your passport with the reception while we are out during the day, but it is best to leave valuables such as expensive jewelry at home.
There are two supermarkets and several shops near the hotel.
Electric outlets in China are 220 volts. If you plan to bring any electrical appliance, please make sure it can handle a 220V outlet. If not, you will need a transformer. China has Type I outlets, but Type G outlets and outlets similar to Type A (though still 220V) can also be found.
Your trip cost covers your housing, transportation, and food; the only money you need to bring is for any personal souvenirs or extra purchases you may wish to make. This amount will vary from person to person; in general, $150-200 should be more than enough. (Per Habitat policy, alcohol cannot be covered by trip funds, so if you wish to have a beer with dinner, you will need to pay for that separately.)
The Chinese currency system is called Renminbi, but individual units are called Yuan and Jiao. (1 Yuan = 10 Jiao). The coins in circulation are 1 Yuan, 5 Jiao, and 1 Jiao. As of October, 1 USD is about 6.4 Yuan. Conversely, 1 Yuan is about $0.16 USD.
LOGISITICS: FLIGHTS & VISAS
Please note that the published dates of the trip (Dec. 23rd- January 1st) include travel days. The day that you will actually need to arrive and meet the group at the airport is Sunday Dec. 25th. We will be leaving the airport at 3pm on the 25th, so your flight will need to arrive before that time- please give yourself enough spare time to collect your bags, use the restroom, etc. before our 3pm departure. The airport that you will need to meet at is Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport- the airport code is CAN. Your flight out should be booked for Sunday Jan. 1st (same airport)- any time is fine.
You are welcome to fly in early or stay beyond the time of the trip to do some exploring on your own- many participants decide to do this if they have extra time off of work! But, please know that your hotel/food/etc is covered from the afternoon of the 25th until checkout on the morning of the 1st. If you decide to go early or stay late you are responsible for planning your accomodations and covering your own expenses.
If you’d like to have me review your flights/personal itinerary before you book it, just shoot me and email and I’ll look it over to make sure everything is okay. After you have booked your flights, please send me a copy of your confirmed itinerary (even if you are arriving earlier than the 25th or departing later than the 1st). I will send you an email about our exact meeting point within the airport closer to the dates of our trip!
In order to enter China, you must have a visa. The process of applying for a visa can take some time- please do not delay in getting this accomplished! If you do not have a visa by the start of the trip, you will not be allowed in the country.
You will need to apply for a tourist visa (also called an “L visa”). Please contact your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate for the forms and directions on filling out and submitting a visa application. (Chinese embassies and consulates are located worldwide. Since the participants on this trip will be coming from several countries, I can’t list them all- a quick google search will help you find the nearest one to you!) Please make sure you carefully follow the instructions and contact the embassy if you have any questions before submission- otherwise your application may be delayed. Make sure that you apply for a tourist visa and not a business visa.
An important note: To eliminate any question that you are not entering China for business purposes, the Habitat China staff recommends that you do NOT use the words “work,” “volunteer,” or “Habitat for Humanity” on the visa application. Please email me with any questions, and also keep me updated on your visa application process!
HEALTH & SAFETY
Medical insurance is included in your trip cost and is provided by MEDEX. Please see the information in your orientation packet for details. The medical insurance covers you beginning 5 days before the start day of the trip and until 5 days post-trip. If you plan to extend your trip any longer, you are of course responsible for your own medical insurance.
Though it is not required, I would encourage you to register with your country’s embassy to inform them of your trip to China. In the event of an emergency (e.g. natural disaster), this helps your embassy to know that you are in the country and to provide you with any assistance you may need. This is also helpful in more minor cases, such as a lost passport.
US citizens can register their trip plans online at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/
Australian citizens can register online at https://www.orao.dfat.gov.au/orao/weborao.nsf/homepage?Openpage
Canadian citizens can register online at https://www.voyage2.gc.ca/Registration_inscription/Register_Inscrire/Login_ouvrir-une-session-eng.aspx
Habitat for Humanity cannot make medical recommendations, so please visit the CDC website (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/china.htm) to make yourself aware of the recommended vaccines, malaria prophylactics, and other medical considerations involved in traveling to China. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health care provider to determine which vaccines and/or medications you will need.
All HFH China staff on the worksite have been trained in first aid. Habitat China has a first aid kit on site, and I will also have an additional first aid kit with us throughout the trip. Our hosts will also have contacts for doctors, dentists, and hospitals should the need arise.
Participants should not carry valuables or large amounts of money. You may store valuables at the reception desk of our hotel, but valuables are generally better left at home.
PACKING: WHAT TO BRING
When packing for the trip, please keep in mind our daily activities: we will be working during the day (bring clothes you don’t mind getting dirty) and after showering, will be eating dinner and socializing in the evenings (bring clothes other than working clothes). Conghua features local hot springs which we’ll try to visit, so bring a swimsuit or other clothing to wear for this activity! On the final day of our trip, we will be visiting museums and local sites.
The typical temperature range (average low to average high) for the time period of our trip is 48 to 65 F, or 9 to 18 C. This means that it’s important to dress in layers so that you can adjust- you may become warm while working and might want to remove a layer; alternatively, if you are doing a task that is less physically challenging in nature, you may want to add a layer to stay warm!
In addition to the obvious things like bathroom necessities, camera, etc., here are some other things you might want:
A personal journal, if you care to record the daily activities; a book to read in downtime
Small backpack or bag to carry your things to the worksite or when we go out for dinner
Hand sanitzer; insect repellent; a hat and/or a bandanna; sunglasses; chapstick with SPF, and sunscreen
Small flashlight, just in case
Any medication you may need
Zip-lock bags for soiled clothing
Earplugs (you will be sharing a hotel room)
A note on footwear: You must wear closed-toe shoes; you’ll notice that the list below says steel-toed boots are best. While this is true, you by no means need to go buy steel-toed boots. If you own them and want to bring them that’s great, but tennis shoes are fine! The main goal here is protecting your feet.
Guidelines from the staff in China:
Clothing For the work site:
Sturdy work shoes with closed toes. No sandals or any open-toed shoes (Steel-toed boots are best !!!). Loose, comfortable clothing: T-shits or long-sleeved shirts (protection against sunburn and mosquito bites)
Long, durable pants
Shorts are permitted but no recommended. Abrasion, cuts, scratches and sunburn are the most common injuries on a building site
Light cotton socks
Broad brim hat to protect your face from the sun.
Sturdy pair of working gloves. (Spare gloves are available on the work site)
For social gatherings:
Men: Casual shirt and pants/jeans.
Women: Casual and comfortable dress; Blouse and skirt or slacks/pants.
*Propriety dictates that shorts and inadequate clothing be avoided.
Other clothing suggestions:
Lightweight, button-up raincoat or parka.
Swimwear (Hot Springs)
Comfortable shoes or sandals for travel and sightseeing, rubber slippers for shower and swimming pool. (Working shoes may get very dirty or muddy).
Sun block lotion (at least SPF 30)
Towels and washcloth (face towels)
Soap, shampoo and toothpaste
Insect repellant (with DEET)
Other useful things to bring:
Camera and film (if any)
Flashlight and batteries
Small backpack/bag to carry and contain personal belongings on the work site
Voltage Converter and adaptor plugs. Standard voltage in China is 220V, 50Hz.
HFH will provide tools on the work site. However, volunteers are encouraged to bring basic tools. Tools can always be used for future builds so we kindly ask that you consider donating the tools you may bring.
Not to bring:
Anything expensive or valuable
Large amounts of cash
Gifts for the villagers (we prefer gifts to be given to us so they can be distributed fairly, and we work to promote self reliance and not a dependence on “hand outs”)
As you have read in your Orientation Handbook, Habitat for Humanity has a very important policy on gift-giving. I’ve pasted it below, but essentially, giving gifts can cause major disturbances (even though you have the best possible intentions and may not even be aware of the effects of your gift.) If you would like to donate anything, we will give it to the affiliate, who will distribute it appropriately and fairly. See the policy below:
Habitat for Humanity takes a very strict stance on avoiding paternalism and fostering any sense of dependency or inequality among our partnering communities. Our Habitat partners have asked that team members not bring gifts such as radios, watches or special favors for individual families on any trip. The most well-intentioned and (from our perspective) most minor gift can often create jealousy, competition and enmity.
Donations to the local affiliate that benefit an entire community such as school supplies, small tools and clothing are welcome and appreciated and will be distributed by host affiliate personnel. We ask that your team leader always remain the first point of contact for this type of in-kind or monetary contribution.
Team members occasionally are approached by hosting community members about sponsoring a child in the community. This too is discouraged; Habitat strives to promote independence and personal capacity, not create dependence on others— especially those outside of their own community. Such acts of generosity also raise the community’s expectations of future GV teams. If you are interested in further supporting the host community, please contact your GV team leader.
MEET THE COMMUNITY
Learn about some of the homeowner families from the community we’ll be working with! The following information was graciously provided by the Habitat China staff:
Eliminating Mud Houses for Low‐Income Families in Conghua, Guangdong Province, China: Three Generations in Shui Wei Dong Village Look Forward to a Transformed Community
Shui Wei Dong Village is a small rural farming community in Guangdong province, one of the most rapidly developing provinces in China. Guangdong is also an area that has the most visible polarization of the rich and poor. Many families in Shui Wei Dong are living in primitive and dangerous row houses made of mud walls and tiled roofs. These houses have no proper sanitation or ventilation systems and often house both the family and livestock together. Not only are the houses uncomfortable and unhygienic, they are also vulnerable to the floods and typhoons that regularly affect this area.
Since 2009, the local government has initiated a program called “Eliminating Mud Houses for Low‐Income Rural Families,” which aims to transform mud houses into safe homes by the end of 2012. Families who qualify for this program will receive a subsidy of RMB 25,000 or US $3,900 from the government to build a new house. However, the average cost of a brick house with a reinforced concrete roof in the Conghua district where Shui Wei Dong is located is RMB 50,000 or US $7,800. To help the 110 families of Shui Wei Dong village reach their dream of safe, decent homes, Habitat for Humanity China is providing the families with a no‐profit loan that will give them the funding needed to complete the construction of their houses and help to transform their entire community.
Chen Bin Rong (75) and his wife Wei Wei (58) were both born in Shui Wei Dong village, and it was in this close‐knit community they raised their family of six (four daughters and two sons). The Chen’s have overcome much adversity in their lives, including living with Wei Wei’s disability. When Wei Wei was a baby, she had Polio, which left her unable to walk. She gets around by using small wooden blocks to swing her body from place to place. Because of this disability, Bin Rong was the sole income generator, and supported his large family by cutting wood in the forest and selling it for firewood. When he became too old and infirm to continue with this line of work, he set up a small sundry shop in his home, selling sweets to his neighbors.
Sitting on low stools sipping hot cups of local green tea in the Chen’s small one room home, it was amazing to imagine a family of eight living there. The Chen family moved into this mud brick row house when it was built 28 years ago. The Chen’s slept in a bed separated from the living area/sundry shop by a partition and the children slept above their parents in a wooden loft. This mud brick house needs constant repairs and upkeep. The ceramic tiles often blow off the roof during rainstorms, exposing the Chens to the elements. Now that their children have married and moved away, they do not have anyone to help them make the needed repairs. Both Bin Rong and Wei Wei are suffering from health issues, which are exacerbated by their living environment, and require regular medical attention which is expensive.
A new home will give Bin Rong and Wei Wei peace of mind. They will no longer have to worry about the constant repairs or be afraid that the roof will collapse during a storm. Bin Rong and Wei Wei are excited to host volunteers from China and all over the world in their small village. They never thought that strangers would help them transform their community.
Chen Jian Xin (50) and his wife Ma Qin Lian (41) also live in Shui Wei Dong village. Jian Xin is a farmer who plants rice, peanuts and plums, supplementing his income by cutting wood in the mountains to sell as firewood or working as an unskilled laborer. Qin Lian works in a factory making wooden planks used for construction that is about a one hour drive from their village. Because of the distance from her home, she stays in a factory dormitory and is able to return home two days a month to rest and visit with her family. Their three adult children (two sons and one daughter) also live in Shui We Dong. Like their neighbors, the Chens also live in a mud brick row house that was built in the 1970’s. They raised their family in this one room home that requires constant repairs and upkeep. The wooden beams are rife with termites and the ceramic tiles blow off during storms bringing rain and dust into their home. Qin Lian has lived in a mud brick house her entire life and is looking forward to the safety and security a good home will bring. Jian Xin is looking forward to having more time to focus on his farming instead of repairing his house. With two unmarried sons, Qin Lian hopes this new home will bring her sons greater opportunity, which will allow them to marry.
It’s an exciting time for the Chens. They are looking forward to meeting the volunteers and learning about new cultures. There have been very few visitors to their remote village and they welcome the opportunity to make new friends over tea. Qin Lian may even ask for time off from the factory so she doesn’t miss meeting the volunteers and helping to rebuild her community.
Chen Rui Hua (31) and his wife Ou Yang Li Shan (24) just celebrated the birth of their first child, Chen Li Zhong (four months). Living in one room of a stone row house built in the 1980’s, Rui Hua dreams of having a decent home for his new family. Rui Hua is a rice farmer who works when he can driving a truck to transport goods, and Li Shan stays at home to care for their small son. When their son is about three years old, Li Shan plans to leave him in the care of her relatives and return to work as a cashier in a shop to help increase the family’s daily income. For this young family, a new home will provide their newborn son with an environment where he can grow into a healthy young man with a good education and good prospects for marriage. For this young family, a new home will be the building block for a bright future.
These three families, along with 107 other families of the Shui Wei Dong village, will receive a no‐profit loan from Habitat for Humanity China towards to the construction of their new homes, transforming the entire community. The mud brick row houses will be demolished, and in their place, structurally sound brick duplex homes with reinforced concrete roofs and proper sanitation facilities will be built.
Pictured above: Mud brick row houses in Shui Wei Dong Village, Conghua District, Guangdong Province
Chen Bin Rong and his wife Wei Wei in front of their mud brick home
Chen Jian Xin and his wife Qin Lian in front of their mud brick home
Chen Rui Hua and his wife Li Shan with son Li Zhong in front of their home
BLOG & PICTURES
We had a fantastic time working with Shuiweidong village!
Pictures of our trip will be up soon on a Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1842680@N20/
In the meantime, check out what one of the participants had to say…
Today we began the build in the village of Shuiweidong which is nestled amongst beautiful mountains and a stream. The project is to build 110 homes in the village by July. The locals greeted us as we took a tour of their village and later provided us a tasty lunch from their gardens. Today’s job was to move brick… And more brick… And the GV team worked together like we’d been teammates for years. Everyone contributed to the work that was accomplished without complaint and with a big smile. There were so many highlights noted from the day but especially the warmth of the families in the village.