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Jess and Angie share their Habitat for Humanity experience

Jess and Angie are back from their unforgettable adventure as part of the Habitat for Humanity house building project in Thailand. Read here how they were selected to be part of this amazing opportunity. Speaking to them about their trip will give you goose-bumps. From the moment they stepped off the plane Jess and Angie immersed themselves in the culture and local surroundings, getting to see the real country and community. They were amazed to see just how hard working the people of Thailand are, and the differences between cultures.


Working alongside the family who would be receiving the house was a real eye opener for everyone who helped to build the houses. The family receiving the house had to take time off from their daily jobs to be part of the build, and made the experience for Jess and Angie a whole lot more extraordinary.

Their experience is best described in their words:

What did this trip mean to you?

Angie:

It was an opportunity to visit somewhere completely different, and to help make a difference to a community by building homes for three families. It was my first ever visit to Asia so I was really excited to go somewhere new, but the best part for me was to meet the locals and my colleagues from all over the world. I found the Thai people I met to be really friendly and welcoming and I hope to take my family there in the future.

Jess:

The trip was an opportunity to meet and establish bonds with new communities, both the community in the village where we were building, and the community of other Cigna employees from across the globe.

What's your favourite picture from the trip?

Angie:

A photo of me with Salini and her little boy, who will become the homeowner of the house we built. She was really friendly

and very grateful that they will now own their own home. Her husband was working alongside us for the whole build period and he really did work harder than everyone.

Jess:

There’s a photo of my building team sitting up on the scaffolding in our house laying the final bricks. Everyone is covered in cement and sweat, but all still smiling.

What was the hardest part of your trip?

Angie:

I felt disappointed to walk away from the house without finishing it. I felt that there was a lot more that we could have done, but realistically, not in the short time allowed. The Habitat for Humanity organisers and the homeowners seemed happy that they could finish it within a fortnight.

Jess:

The heat was pretty testing. But to be honest, once we got used to it, and upped hydration it wasn’t so bad. I also found it hard not being able to finish the whole house. I would have loved to be there right from beginning to end and then hand over a finished product. I can’t wait to see photos of the final house.

What did you learn, has this trip changed your life?

Angie:

It is easy to take home ownership for granted. This experience has reminded me that owning your own home is a privilege that some people never enjoy. I bought my first house when I was 21. The family we were building said that without Habitat for Humanity and Cigna, they would have to save for 10 more years to buy their home, so they would be living with parents until they were 50. A home is more than a roof over your head. It’s a place to feel safe in, it provides privacy, shelter and somewhere to raise a family. I feel very lucky to have been able to provide a home for my family, and am delighted that through Cigna and Habitat for Humanity we have helped other people do the same.

Jess:

I found the trip to be another reminder not to take things for granted. It’s really important to acknowledge the privilege we have here. It’s also further cemented (pun intended) my strong desire to continue giving back. Charity and voluntary work is a really central part of how I live my life, and this was another reminder of why it’s really important to do so. It was also a reminder how much I really love physical work! It’s easy to get used to being sedentary working at a desk all day, but I found it so enjoyable and satisfying being outside all day. It’s certainly inspired me to do something like this again.

What was the most special moment of your trip?

Angie:

Every day we shared a lunch in the rest area. Each day, one of the three homeowner families provided a dish for us as a thank you. The lunch was great as it gave us a chance to sample everyday Thai food that you might not see in a restaurant. I’ve included a photo of a dessert which one of the homeowners made, which consisted of sweet noodles wrapped in banana leaves served with coconut milk. Sounds weird but delicious! On the last day of the build, we had a special lunch when all the homeowners came to be given the key to their new homes. It was a very emotional experience. By working together we all felt that we had formed a bond across countries and cultures, and it felt like working with a group of old friends.

Jess:

It would have to be the final day when we gave the keys to the families. We all gathered at the lunch tent and the three families were invited to speak via translators. They were so thankful and really emotional. There’s no way there would have been a dry eye in that tent, even the local Thailand Habitat for Humanity team were in tears! It really showed how much of an impact this build had on their lives. It was really special to see just how much this trip meant to these families.

For more information about Jess and Angie’s trip check out our media release.


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