It’s estimated more than 1 billion people worldwide are homeless and as many again may be lacking adequate housing (UN Global Survey 2005). Widespread homelessness is a huge problem in many of the communities we work with worldwide. Poverty in rural areas has led to a shortage of adequate housing, resulting in many thousands of children and adults surviving without shelter or living in unsuitable and unsafe buildings.

We believe everyone should have shelter. That’s why since 2010, we have built and renovated over 50 houses for vulnerable people. Last month we completed our latest new home with the help of our Borneo teams on Mantanani island.

Read on for the fully story about this amazing project and to gain an insight into how we work, the way we develop our projects alongside the communities and the life-changing impacts they have for the people and wider communities we support.


Gap volunteers handed over the house to owner Siti



Early 2017 – Identifying where we can make a difference

Our unique approach means we work very closely with local communities, communicating directly with community leaders and working alongside local people to identify projects which will benefit those most in need.

Our Camps International team in Mantanani found out through the village chief that an elderly lady had been living inside a generator store room for more than 5 years. With no husband or children to offer support, and lacking the financial resources or labour required to secure her own home, she had found herself in a vulnerable position.


Digging for foundation



May-June 2017 – The project plan takes shape

The village chief requested our help to improve the situation for this lady, and in May we started to establish plans to build a new home. We met with the community leaders to discuss a suitable site for the new house and work out costings for the project.

In-keeping with our commitments to help protect the local environment, we planned to construct the building mainly using upcycled materials, repurposing waste materials from the area. All other materials would be sourced locally, helping to contribute to the local economy, and the house would be designed and built using traditional local methods.


Demolishing old store room.


July-August 2017 – Our volunteers get stuck in

Project plans in place, it was time for the work to begin. Throughout July and August, over 200 of our dedicated volunteers helped to collect waste materials from the nearby beach which would become the basic structure of the new house.

Our amazing teams collected around 600 plastic bottles, filling them with Styrofoam and sand to make the eco-bricks which created the walls of the house. 400 discarded bottle caps were turned into a decorative mosaic for the part of the pantry floor, and strips of plastic bottles were used to make a stained glass effect upper wall covering.


Arranging eco-bricks to build walls


Plastered walls.



September 2017 – The final phases

After a busy summer and lots of hard work, by September the main structure of the house was up. It was now time to add the final parts – our September gap volunteers worked alongside skilled local tradesmen to help install the doors, complete the ceiling and paint the walls in the iconic bright colours typical of the buildings in this vibrant island community.


Painting job of the house



Empowered and inspired by the generous spirit of the project, members of the community also came together to offer their support. Neighbours donated furniture to complete the interior of the house and our local Camps staff donated bedding and curtains.

Thanks to the amazing efforts of our dedicated volunteers and the local villagers, by September the house was complete and ready to hand over.


Handing over bedding




The building of the house not only transformed this lady’s life but also helped to energise and fuel the community spirit in Mantanani, as well as creating awareness and educating local villagers on the positive impact of upcycling waste to create useful building materials.


Our ongoing projects in Borneo and all our other destinations continue to extend this fantastic work, helping to bring both the resources and the initiative to drive positive change in communities and help improve lives.


We are incredibly proud of the positive impact we have been able to make for thousands of people. With the help of volunteers just like you, we can achieve even more.


To find out how you can join us on a life-changing trip and help to work on incredible projects like these, click here to request a free brochure and start planning your adventure.