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  • Arman Shah, Habitat Contributor

Volunteering in Asia: 5 Popular Cities For Unique Global Village Experiences

Planning your next build trip but not sure where to go? We've curated our top 5 popular Global Village destinations for volunteers who want to know more about the need of local communities we serve or have a good mix of work and play during their trip. Don't forget to visit our Global Village page to find out more about planning your trip!


A short ferry ride away from Singapore, Batam has always been associated with good food and cheap weekend getaways. With the rise of luxury hotels and resorts in this Indonesian city, there are even more reasons for tourists to head over there.

Despite its stylish modern-day offerings, however, many locals still live in poor housing conditions and are in need of proper housing infrastructure. That’s where you can come in as a Habitat Singapore volunteer.

Since 2014, Habitat has invested a lot of its time and efforts into transforming Kabil Village. Situated in western Batam, theis sub-district of Nongsa houses 20,000 residents, 40 percent of which live in substandard houses made with scrap wood and tin sheets.

More of a shack than a safe place to call home, these poorly constructed houses are susceptible to water leaks, floods and – in the worst case scenarios – structural collapse during the monsoon season. Join Habitat in its quest to improve and rehabilitate the living conditions of these families.

Chiang Mai

Time your trip right, and you might just have the ultimate experience of topping off your Global Village build trip with the fun water festival Songkran in April or and the magical lantern festival Loy Krathong in November.

Chiang Mai is known as Thailand’s cultural capital not only for its beautifully preserved city centre but also for its strongly creative and arts society, bolstered by a large student population. Culturally, it’s also different from the rest of the country since it was a separate Kingdom and one of the last to join the Thailand as we know today.

The best way to truly understand the culture is to live it. So when volunteers join a build trip to Chaing Mai, they’ll be experiencing a different side of Thai culture, customs and preferences as they delve deep into the local community and homes.


On 26 December 2004, a devastating tsunami swept across 14 cities around the Indian Ocean from Aceh to Phuket. Thailand’s highly popular tourism hotspot was devastated, and 15 later, Phuket is still trying to make a full recovery from the scars that the tsuanmi left behind.

While the city has mostly rebuilt the tourism infrastructure to revive the heart and life of the city, there are still poor households who couldn’t afford to properpy rebuild their homes and are stuck with dealing with the never-ending aftermath of substandard living conditions. Next time you plan to snorkel around Phi Phi Islands, include a day or 2 for a build experience in Phuket to help bring much needed change to a family’s life!

Siem Reap

Mention Siem Reap and images of handicraft shops, rice paddies, cultural villages, old markets, colonial architecture in the Old French Quarter and ancient temples come to mind.

But beyond Angkor Wat and its exotic appeal as a tourist destination, this Cambodian city still faces issues of extreme poverty. There is no social assistance system or public housing in Cambodia. Locals have to purchase land to build homes or rent apartments in the city, leaving many low income and vulnerable families live in poor housing conditions.

When you volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, you’ll get to help these locals and be involved in the construction of houses that are unique to their needs.

Because Cambodia experiences a lot of flooding during the monsoon season, most locals stay in two-storey bamboo houses that you can help build. Not only are you presenting a home to the residents, you’re also keeping their cattle safe and warm under the house during the cold seasons. [Pro tip: Siem Reap is one of the few Habitat build sites where volunteers get to build bamboo houses instead of our usual brick-and-cement model]


Nestled within East Java, Surabaya is the second biggest city in Indonesia after Jakarta. This port offers spectacular seaside views and a range of historically-important attractions for globetrotters.

Surabaya also makes for a viable travel destination if you want to immerse yourself in acts of volunteerism. Habitat Singapore, along with volunteers from the Asian Women’s Welfare Association, went over there to help local resident Mr Hadi Sutopo and his family build a new home.

The 62-year-old scavenger used to live in a dirty, slum-like house that partially served as a storage space for plastics and other scavenging goods, but now his lovely family live in a sturdy brick home without fear that the ceiling will collapse on them.

Because Mr Hadi puts his kids’ education above all else on his list of priorities, he is also glad that they can now invite their classmates over to study in a safe and conducive environment.


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