Today’s guest post comes to us from Patrick McLoughlin, AmeriCorps Alumni (2010-2011) serving with the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky with the Build Corps team. He currently works in construction management in Chicago, Illinois and recently co-founded Build Abroad. Patrick received his BA in Architecture from Miami University with a minor in entrepreneurship. During his time at Miami, he did a study abroad in Ghana, West Africa, helping design and build a school in the village of Abrafo Odumasi.  

From 2010-2011 I was serving with AmeriCorps with the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky (HHCK). I was working on the “Build Corps” team which did rehab and renovation work for low income family homes. HHCK is in essence the “mother” organization for a number of smaller local organizations. I was working with the Midtown Alliance of Neighbors in Paducah, Kentucky where I concentrated on serving local residents through repair and renovation projects. During my year with AmeriCorps, I helped do construction projects on dozens of projects for low income residents and helped organize two “Repair Affair” days, which involved coordinating work on over 10 homes in a single day.

As an architecture graduate, I saw humanitarian construction as a very physical representation of how we can help those less fortunate. As you can imagine, the work I did with AmeriCorps was very rewarding and I wanted to find a way to give back to even more people.

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Volunteer team working on a house during Repair Affair 2010. During that day, volunteers did repair work on 12 different homes.

After I finished my year with AmeriCorps, I decided I wanted to get involved in similar types of construction projects. This past year I did a volunteer trip to Costa Rica to help local communities by doing construction work on a women’s shelter. Shortly after that, I co-founded Build Abroad.

The idea behind Build Abroad is to connect travelers and tourists with those in need. Build Abroad offers volunteering construction trips to developing countries where people can help build homes, schools, or orphanages. Right now they are offering trips to Guatemala, Peru, and Costa Rica, but will be branching out to even more countries in the very near future.

The thing that I noticed while working with AmeriCorps was that construction projects make a very physical impact on a community. In one instance, I remember meeting a military vet whose roof was leaking in multiple places. There were literally tarps covering holes in his roof. Over a 1 week time period, we were able to provide him with a new roof and even rebuilt part of his front porch. As you can imagine, he was extremely gracious for all we did, and I love knowing that the work we did during that week is still making a difference today, almost 4 years later.

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Construction Volunteers during Midtown Alliance of Neighbors Build Day.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to serve with AmeriCorps for a year and I know the large impact that I made on a community. Unfortunately, it is not easy for many to devote an entire year to AmeriCorps, or even more time to do something such as the Peace Corps. The idea behind Build Abroad is to give people the chance to make an impact on a community through shorter volunteer trips.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with Build Abroad. The main service that we provide is volunteer labor. We have trips to Peru, Guatemala, and Costa Rica that you can sign up for on our website. Part of the trip costs go towards construction materials and the remainder goes towards the coordination, accommodations, and meals for the trip. We also accept donations that allow us to fund bigger projects and make more impact in communities.

In closing, serving with AmeriCorps after graduation was one of the most rewarding things I could have done and it made me realize what I want to do for the rest of my life. I was able to use my skills to start a company that builds in developing countries. I hope that Build Abroad gives others the same rewarding feeling in condensed construction volunteer trips.

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