These are some frequently asked questions by HFH Egypt GV Team members. While this is meant to be a quick reference guide, please note that GV teams are still responsible for all the information outlined in the Habitat for Humanity Egypt Global Village Participant Handbook.
Q: What is the maximum number of participants on a HFH Egypt GV?
A: Maximum team size is 15 with 10 – 12 being optimal.
Q: How many days to teams typically build?
A: Teams typically operate on an 8-9 day itinerary and build for 4 days. This is due to the fact that we recognize both the Muslim and Christian holy days (Friday and Sunday). A sample itinerary is available in the “HFH Egypt GV Handbook”.
Q: What are the homes usually built out of?
A: The majority of homes are built with limestone block, but occasionally we build with red fired brick. A mixture of cement and sifted sand is then created for use as mortar and a plaster that goes on the newly constructed dried walls. Building materials are dependant upon the availability and cost. HFH Egypt is constantly reassessing building practices to ensure that our homes are structurally sound, economically feasible and culturally appropriate for our homeowners.
Q: Do the homeowners work alongside the team?
A: Yes, the homeowners and their family work alongside the GV team. The number of family members present can range from just 1-2 to upward of 10. It simply depends upon the family and their work situation. Every team is introduced to the family members present as well as any hired laborers when they first arrive on site. GV teams tend to draw quite a crowd of curious onlookers and most find they end up working alongside extended family and neighbors throughout the build.
Q: What actual work is likely to be done by team members?
A: A complete list of activities can be found in both the “HFH Egypt GV Handbook” as well as the “Construction Tool Kit”. The type of work is dependent on what stage a GV team joins a build. Typical work includes carrying block/brick/sand, sifting sand, mixing mortar and plaster, plastering walls, and wood roofing (hammering, sawing). Painting and sanding of finished walls occurs occasionally.
Q: How many homes do teams work on?
A: A team of 12 is typically divided into 3 work crews and throughout the course of a GV can work on 6-18 houses. Each team will work in two different villages and the length of time spent at each home depends on the type work needed. For instance a wood roof can take one morning where as bringing block and sand to the second floor of a home can be a two day job.
Q: Will any homes be completed and dedicated during our build?
A: It is rare that a team finishes a home during their HFH Egypt GV. Most of our beneficiaries take a “stage” loan which means that they are building or renovating their home in successive stages (i.e. adding a second floor to separate family units or installing a clean water tap, hygienic latrine, sump pit etc.). This means that building and renovation for each family tends to be continuous over a longer period.
Q: What is a typical homeowner/family like?
A: Each community and family is unique, but most of our rural families are farmers or small tradesmen. Farmers typically either own a very small plot of land or lease land to grow crops for sale at market. Those who live in more urban communities are tradesmen or work in very low-level government jobs. Many men also travel to Cairo for work as day-laborers etc. Many families have multiple generations living together. Loans to build second or third floors for a son and his family are common.
Q: Do teams ever experience a shortage of work? materials? tools?
A: Limiting team size makes shortages of this kind rare. However, we ask that teams prepare to be both patient and flexible. When first arriving at a build site there is always a “discussion period” where the site engineer or local committee member will decide with whoever is present how to get started and where. This is simply cultural; Egyptians are extremely relational, so decisions are never made until the community is in agreement.
HFH Egypt will provide the tools and materials necessary for the build. However, tools are basic and work is manual. Teams use hand pumped plaster machines, trowels for mixing and good old fashioned hammers – there is no such thing as a power tool in our communities. Note that each work crew will have an HFH Egypt representative with them to the monitor safety and comfort of the team throughout your journey.
Q: How long does it take to get from the hotel to the worksites?
A: Teams travel by motor coach from the hotel to the community each day. Most communities are 15-30 minutes away, although some are up to a 1 hour commute. Once in the community it is typically a short walk from the community association to the various homes/build sites.
Q: What are the accommodations like? Are there any problems with availability water or electricity?
A: Teams stay in 3 & 4 star hotels during their stay in Egypt. However, please keep in mind that “stars” are cultural interpretations. It may not be what you’re used to, but rooms are basic and clean with reliable running water and electricity. Each room has its own air conditioner, mini fridge and television. All linens including towels are provided and laundry services are available with a 24 hour turn around at a nominal fee.
Q: What kind of food will we eat?
A: All meals during the GV are covered in your HFH Egypt budget. However, if you are a picky eater or tend to get hungry at odd hours (i.e. 2am snacks are common occurrence) we recommend you bring along some snack such as protein/granola bars or trail mix etc. HFH Egypt will have some snacks on the work site/bus (usually cookies and chips). The team will eat breakfast and dinner at the hotel and lunchboxes are provided on the work site. Teams should drink only bottled water (provided by HFH Egypt) during their trip, however it is completely safe to brush your teeth and shower with tap water – it is treated. Some teams have found it helpful to bring individual dry packets of sport drink mixes that can be easily added to bottled water. For a more detailed outline of meals/Egyptian food please see your “HFH Egypt GV Handbook”.
Q: Will the team have a translator on the work site?
A: Teams travel with two HFH Egypt staff members at all times – your GV Coordinator and a Field Coordinator. The Field Coordinator, a native Arabic speaker, is your first line of translation. The GV Coordinator, HFH Egypt contract engineers, and local committee members will also be able to assist you in communicating during the build. Each work crew will have at least one HFH Egypt representative with them that speaks at least Basic English. They will also each be equipped with a cell phone to contact the GV Coordinator (native English speaker) should translation be a problem.
Q: What if I want to extend my GV to include extra sightseeing after the build?
A: Egypt is an incredible country with much to see and do; many teams choose to extend their time post-build to include cultural attractions and sightseeing. Your GV budget includes one night pre- and two nights post-build at a hotel in Cairo. Should you choose to extend your stay at this location, our staff can assist in reservations at Habitat’s reduced rate. However, please note that additional reservations and ALL R&R activities are the responsibility of the individual. Please see the “HFH Egypt GV Handbook” Tourism and Sightseeing section for additional information and local travel agent contacts that can assist you.
Q: Is Egypt safe?
A: Egypt is safe and welcoming to international visitors. However, when in Cairo teams should take normal precautions when traveling in any foreign country. Stay with a partner, keep your belongings close to you and stay in well populated and well lit environment.
Please be advised that there is always an inherent risk in traveling abroad. Be sure to check Egypt government website and the US State Department for updated travel warnings for information prior to traveling. Should travel in Egypt for any reason become unsafe, HFH Egypt staff will notify your team leader immediately.
Q: Why do teams travel with security at the affiliate?
A: Within Cairo, you and your team are free to go where you wish and do what you like. However, once the HFH Egypt team joins you to travel to Upper Egypt, we will be traveling with security. This security is assigned to the team by the government (Tourist Police) and not hired by HFH Egypt. An officer will likely accompany us on the bus ride to Upper Egypt. From there, each day we will travel to and from the work site with armed guards. Each night when we return to the hotel we will most likely be restricted to staying within the hotel.
Please do not be alarmed or think that there is any imminent danger for your team. This is standard protocol for the government and any tourist group that travels in Upper Egypt and is simply a precaution to ensure your safety. Note that at times their presence may delay our travel we ask that the team try to be as open, patient and as flexible as possible. Typically, during one night of your stay a sailboat (Felucca) ride on the Nile and dinner along with Nile is scheduled. Should there be a need or desire to leave the hotel for any reason please contact your GV Coordinator and they will do everything they can to accommodate your request.
Q: Do I need immunizations?
A: While no special immunizations are required for travel to Egypt, please discuss your travel and personal health plans with a health care provider to determine what vaccines and/or medications you will require. Recommendations and other health tips can be found at the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/travel) or the World Health Organization (www.who.int/en). Both sites list much more information that we can include here, so we strongly encourage you to take the time to explore them both thoroughly.
Q: What kind of clothes should I bring?
A: Please refer to your “HFH Egypt GV Handbook” for appropriate dress and a suggested packing list.
Q: If HFH Egypt uses revolving loan fund to build their houses, what are the donations used for?
A: HFH Egypt operates essentially as a micro-finance lending organization. Families apply to a local, volunteer committee of their peers for incremental, no-interest loans, not to exceed 25% of their income. The majority of these are “stage” loans to make much needed improvements to their homes (i.e. additions, plumbing installation & sanitation, improved roofing etc.). A revolving fund is therefore created; as one family pays back their loan, funds become available to other families in the community. This system teaches valuable life skills and encourages community cohesiveness and accountability.
Unfortunately, the demand for decent, safe and affordable housing in Egypt is such that there are many communities that approach HFH Egypt about starting an affiliate which we currently do not have the funds to support. Your valuable donations are used to either increase funds in communities that would like to expand their current projects or make new funds available in communities where HFH Egypt is not yet at work. Since HFH Egypt gives no-profit loans, a small percentage of donations are also used for administrative costs and support of HFH Egypt’s small full-time national staff.