Habitat for Humanity

El Capitan’s Philippine School Project

Many of you may remember that, The General (in our estimation), Darryl Henderson, donated 20 cords of wood last year to send El Capitan on a Habitat for Humanity Mission to the Philippines. El Capitan, sometimes known as Paravacini, but in this context is The Monk (a significant Catholic upbringing adds to the picture). Well, the General & his brother have done it again, Enough cords to give El Capitan his wish!

The Monk’s heart has been stolen, as you will read in The Starfish Story below:

“Hi Darryl,

Thank you so very much for the offer of the trees to support my venture. It’s difficult to describe all the things I experienced in Manila and the reasons for my taking up this cause. But I get very emotional when I think about the kids there and wonder what kind of future they will have. As you know, the gap between the have’s and have-nots in the third world is getting wider all the time, this is when despair sets in and they feel they have no future. It’s little wonder they look to the west and get resentful.. So I ask myself what I can do?? well I can’t fix all the problems but I can make a difference to some. So for this one small school I am trying to help. Last year I gathered a couple of computers and a whole bunch of supplies and along with my own cash I took it there and helped graduate 12 kids this past March. This year I want to try and raise that to 20.. It’s a small gesture I know, but as I learned through Habitat, often it’s not the quantity of work or help you did, but that fact that you did it!! and these people are so appreciative.. and they begin to learn that the West is not all bad.

For a bit more background about my cause, I have prepared a one-page summary of my journey here. It’s call The Starfish.

For this go round I have told the choppers that I will personally cut, chop and deliver a cord of wood, if they will match it. Its my way of giving ’til it hurts – and it does..(Editor’s Note: it did, we saw him right afterwards)

Again, thank you so very much for your past support and for your continued support. Be assured, 100% goes to the kids..

Regards – Dave Hargreaves (El Capitan of the choppers)”

The Starfish..

If we are willing to risk the unknown, we never know where life’s road will take us. For me, the Habitat for Humanity journey took me to Manila in the Philippines. This is a place where the gap between the have’s and the have-nots is significant at many levels. Yet it is the children that particularly touched my heart and it is their plight that drew me to try and do something. Some of the living conditions in which these children are born into is beyond our Western understanding yet they are beautiful and seemingly happy. Our Habitat team visited a “settlement” of homeless people squatting beside a small river which is best described as an open sewer. When the rains come and bring flooding, these people are washed away often to their deaths.. It is a way of life for them, and the children know no different so they play in the dirt with anything they can find. As they grow and become aware of the outside world through television, they become angry, bitter and resentful. Slowly drugs, alcohol and sex take over their lives – and the cycle continues…

Again, through Habitat, I was introduced to one of many small, faith-based schools in Marikina (a suburb of Manila) which operates to try and give the very young of these children a head start on education. They teach 2-6 year olds to read, write, math, computers, the environment and nature. They provide them with nourishing snacks, school supplies and uniforms.. As we know, the early years of life often set the pattern for the rest of their lives and that it’s through education that the cycle of poverty is broken.. But the schools cannot operate without money, supplies and qualified staff. Yet often the parents fall short of their financial commitment and fail to pay the tuition or take an interest in their child’s education. Again because, poverty, drugs, alcohol and sex has consumed their lives. So the burden falls upon the teacher(s), and because it is faith-based they will not turn the child away. This school (Faith Learning Center) was on the brink of closure because they couldn’t pay their Municipal licenses, or their affiliation fees. Then our Habitat team stepped in and through our generous gifts, we saved the school for another year. Twelve children graduated at the end of March and will go on to public schools with the skills they will need to succeed.

But what about this next year and the next? And what about the other schools who struggle with the same problems?? what difference will it make?? You can’t fix them all??

I am reminded of the starfish story.. “.. a man walked along a beach picking up starfish that were baking in the hot sun, and throwing them in the water. When asked why, what difference does it make and what about all the others? .. whereupon the man answered, I made a difference to that one!!”

My aim is to help graduate 20 kids next year.. and this is why I chop, and this is why I support this school.. Thank you for sharing with me..”

December, 2014 – One of our main choppers, Dave Hargreaves, flew to the Philippines once again this year, to help Habitat For Humanity continue the work of building homes. We’re glad to have him back with us, safe and sound. Here’s what he had to say:
“I have been asked a number of times about the Habitat build in the Philippines and “if” we built many
houses. Well, we didn’t actually build any houses but we did participate in various jobs on the build
site. This project involved some 300 houses. Today, most of them are completed and families are living
in them. The work we did was basic, moving piles of dirt, plastering walls, digging septic tanks.
The experience of a HFH (Habitat build) is intended to expose volunteers to a different way of life and
to interact with people of different cultures while putting in some “sweat equity”. Yet it goes far
beyond that; what follows is an account of one of the team members as she travelled to Samar to visit
her sponsored child. It shares some of the pains and joys that can be found through Habitat for
Humanity Global Village programs.”

This is Melanies story..read more and see the photos


November 2013 – Return from the Philippines

“The Philippines Habitat Global village experience was without a doubt a memorable one. The lifestyle and culture is very different from ours and yet the people were the most enjoyable aspect of the trip. We did indeed work on houses and sweated a lot, got our hands dirty and met the people who would benefit from the work that we, and other teams did.

We walked through impoverished areas of the city, sat in schoolrooms with the children, played with the kids, were treated like royalty by the people who could little afford to feed us, yet they did. We also experienced some of the Philippine culture and the influence of some 300 years of Spanish influence.


At the building site, we participate in building houses that were very basic, 20-25 square meters, one large room some with a loft for sleeping, small toilet and small kitchen. Cold running water and proper sewage disposal. They are turned over in a very “basic” state, bare cement walls, floors and ceilings, electricity and cold running water. Our work is all manual and basic, little in the way of “Home Depot” tools but spades, some hammers, wire cutters that don’t cut very well and bar benders that are “manufactured” onsite.


Most evening we would go to a restaurant for supper, sometimes to a shopping mall that could rival the best of Vancouver or Toronto. We met a family who now live on the site. These people were ejected from their former slum home in 2012 when the government took over the land for a Chinese funded condo project. We heard stories of riots, physical violence and terrible loss of what few personal belongings these people had. Yet the Project proceeded and the condos were built.

We visited an impoverished area of city to experience firsthand how and where some people live. Words can little describe the conditions that we saw. These people live in shacks beside the river that is little more than an open sewer. When the water rises during a storm, or through global warming these places are flooded out and everything is lost. People here were offered a Habitat house or some cash to help them out – some chose the cash. Sad, but it was their choice, we feel badly for the children of which there are many.

On Saturday Nov 9th Typhoon Yolanda makes landfall on the island of Leyte. We get news that Tacloban airport is closed – Liz and I had planned to go there and meet up with our friends who live on the island. We get no news from them so decide to go ahead and although we can’t get to Tacloban we could get to Cebu city.

The clean air and peaceful Pender lifestyle can’t prepare us for these hectic, polluted conditions. Its been just over a week in Manila and most of us are sick with colds, aggravated by the thick, polluted air. Tuesday we visit a primary school meeting with children of all ages. These kids are so very excited at meeting us, so respectful. Looking out from the school’s 2nd floor across a sea of slums and poverty, rises a glistening new monument to the love of Jesus. This contrast is difficult for most of us to understand.

We return to the building site for our last two days of work. A lot has been done particularly on the last house we had worked. Unfortunately the wall we had build had been taken down and replaced a foot further out from an adjacent wall from where raw gray water sewage was running from the site next door.

After our building commitment is over, we say goodbye to our building friends and leave Manila en-route to Cebu city. The after-effects of the storm seems to be having a greater impact on the outside world than here in Manila. Life appears to be the same “organized ” chaos. Flights to the south are disrupted but are beginning to move, if not to Tacloban but other cities that were less affected. We have mixed feelings of wanting to go there and help but not wanting to be in the way or worse, become a casualty so we must make decisions carefully. At the domestic airport terminal in Manila there are many flight changes also many last minute passengers who seem to be relief workers en-route to stricken areas.

We arrive in Cebu city and the organized confusion continues as we check in to a hotel. Much of the transportation links to/from Leyte are overloaded and while we may be able to get there we may not be able to get back. Once connected to the sporatic internet, I make contact with our friends who happened to be in Cebu to get supplies. He tells a story of damage and destruction, loss of many essentials and the threat of violence on the streets. He is eager to return to the island (Leyte) to make sure that his house is not looted. We agree to stay in touch but realize that it may not be for many days. It’s frightening how much we have come to rely on the infrastructure such as communication, power, fuel, water and waste services. Society deteriorates very fast when these break down.

Given this situation, we decide to return home early. In the hotel lounge CNN television reports scenes of disaster and the plight of people trying to recover, yet with all this, there is news of the Rob Ford fiasco and the Canadian Senate mess – As a Canadian, I feel a bit embarrassed.

The Christmas theme is now in full swing in the city yet we cannot quite digest the mix of poverty, disaster, and hyped consumerism all at the same time, AND keep the spirit of Christian love. With all of this, the Philippine people seem to be always smiling and upbeat.

Saturday 16th. – We leave Cebu city en-route to Manila and then to Vancouver. We have mixed thoughts about what we have seen and experienced. We came close to being involved in a terrible disaster. We have seen and worked in dreadful poverty, but we’re able to leave it at the end of the day and go back to our comfortable hotel. We have also witnessed lavish luxury, and the fruits of the corporate world.. And returned home to our comfortable, peaceful Island. Can we go back to being the way we were?

In conclusion, we didn’t actually build a house and make a major impact on the building site, but by traveling half way around the world to participate the way we did, sent a clear message, that we have not forgotten about them, we do care and this in itself offers them hope and a better future for their children. And as Canadians, this is what we are about and it’s what we do.

To all of you who helped us with your kind donation, thank you again, you have indeed made a difference. There are some pictures on my dropbox album, in particular a “thank you” card from the community. This message is as much for you as to our team. We have made a difference.

Here is the link


Kind Regards

Dave Hargreaves

Elizabeth Watts.


Nov 14/13 – Hi All

After our Habitat build finished on Wedesday, we took the chance and came down to Cebu city in hopes of trying to make it to our friends in Baybay Leyte. Shortly after arriving and getting online, I got the following note from my friend Pat..


Hi Dave.. I advise you not to come to Baybay city.

We have no water (we’re catching rainwater to survive), no electrical power (this and no air conditioning), we have no gasoline, no lights, no cell or land-line telephones or internet, and no joy other than we’re all alive and happy for that we’re very happy. A huge tree (120-150 feet tall and 32-36 inches in diameter) fell on our garage where we had the two motor bikes and the multi-cab. The bikes are damaged but still run but the van that I had just purchased last March was totally flattened and is now scrap metal. The death and destruction is incredible. It reminds me of pictures of Syria with buildings destroyed, trees and power poles down all over the town and highways so travel is almost impossible within and between towns. It’s real disaster area. The food is running out and lawlessness has started to raise it’s ugly face. In Tacloban where 10,000+ people were killed when the super dome which was being used as a evacuation center collapsed. Tacloban is where your plane was supposed to land but it’s now under a state of emergency and marshal law has been declared… they’re not letting any private cars to enter and the residents are streaming out to get food and water for their families. In Tacloban they had released prisoners from two large jails because they would have died if they were kept in. Well those prisoners are rampaging through town stealing anything they can lay their hands on and killing anyone who resists. The gangs of thugs were reported in Baybay last night and we evacuated our daughter and her 1 1/2 month old baby to her mother’s home where a nephew has a .45 pistol (and his helper has a Samurai sward) to protect the family, but I do hope it doesn’t come to that.

They are saying that power will be off for at least a month and possibly for 2-6 months, water will be off for possibly a month or longer and communications is off for an indeterminate length of time. The covered basketball court in our part of Baybay had it’s roof torn off and the girders look like pretzels. The big gym down town was destroyed and the central market was also destroyed. It’s a real mess. My house came through it ok but we haven’t gone up into the attic yet and water is dripping down through the light fixtures so something isn’t right up there… large parts of the gutters were ripped off and almost all the trees in the yard are either uprooted, on the ground or in the neighbors yards. It’s going to cost a lot of money for me to get the house back in shape and years to restore the beauty of the trees and grounds. It’s not pretty! A few people were killed in Baybay but people heeded the mayors warnings that a super typhoon was going to hit and hit it did… with a vengeance for 10 hours with winds of 325+ kph (gusts) and sustained winds in the high 200’s kph. I’ve heard estimate that the storm surge was 19 meters above normal and much of the downtown was flooded.

The nipa huts at my beach property were destroyed but the one on my veranda is still standing but will require a new roof and some structural repairs. All in all it’s the most devastating that I’ve ever seen mother nature get and some reports are that it was the most violent Typhoon anywhere in the world in 100 years. It was bad and the cleanup may be more than the Philippines can handle, but the reports that the UN and the world community are coming to help, really brought tears to my eyes. We have had to come over to Cebu to email you, buy supplies and get some money out of our bank account as the banks in Leyte may be off line for the next month and prices are going up… a bottle of water that was selling for 35 pesos (0.80 CAD) is now 250 pesos (6.00 CAD) if you can get it.

A few supply trucks have made it into town but they sell out very quickly and supplies of batteries, baby good / powdered milk, propane etc are running gone. I was helping with the clean up of the garage and fell over a concrete post. I tore up my legs and think that my left wrist is broken but as the hospital has no power I can’t get it xrayed because the hospital has no power, and there are no doctors around anyway (most have gone to Tocloban). Mum is holding it all together and the baby slept through the Yolanda but I’m beginning to worry about disease if emergency supplies don’t get in soon. (but Tacloban is getting priority which it needs so badly). I’m doing ok but I feel so useless as I’m not able to help very much. The neighbors have been great as some have come over to help or sent their boys to help us remove the fallen trees from the yard but the place is a mess and may never look as good as it was before Yolanda (that’s the Philippine name) came to visit.


I immediately emailed Pat when I got this message and we were fortunate to make contact and meet up with them before they returned home today.

Liz and I are going to try leave Cebu tomorrow, Saturday for Manila and try to return home early.

Kind regards, Dave and Liz

Sent from Cebu city, Philippines.

Up-dates from the Philippines – from Dave Hargreaves

Nov 6/13

We arrived in Manila early Sunday morning to join 10 other like-minded volunteers from across Canada to participate in helping to bring hope to 360 families.

Manila is a city of some 17 million of which 4 million are homeless or live in such squalid conditions they have little hope. Indeed as we spend our time here the first thing that strikes us is the poverty and the horrible conditions in which people live, yet they seem to be always happy and appreciative. But despite the obvious poor, there are pockets of obscene affluence such as spectacular shopping malls and huge beautiful churches.

Build Site

Each day since our arrival has been filled with working on the site. Beginning at 7am the city is already busy. As we drive to the build site the traffic is beyond belief as 8 lanes of all manner of vehicles “battle for position”. We westerners would not want to drive here. Words can little describe the conditions here. The drive to and from the hotel takes us through areas of extreme poverty where people eek out a living among garbage and mountains of “recycling” materials from which they hope to derive enough money to buy food and, maybe send their kids to school.

Once at the building site we participate in various small tasks that support the building of cement block, poured in place concrete construction. We cut re-bar and assemble rebar-frames for use as reinforcement to pillars, floors and walls. We paint exterior walls, sift sand for use in final layer plastering and wall construction. Today we worked in water-soaked clay to lay two walls of cement block with interlaid rebar frames that we had made. The work conditions are very crude to say the least (Workers Compensation would NOT approve this site) we are the few who wear hard hats and boots any in bare feet! We work alongside people who are working their mandatory 400 “sweat equity” hours, which is essentially their down payment. We work alongside other volunteers too – during our time here there are some 30 Airforce Personnel putting in their community time. As well there are regular “paid” trades such as electricians and plumbers – again, electrical and plumbing standards are well below Canadian. 220 volt wires strung across the site often from tree to tree – but little in the way of power tools are used. Cement is mainly mixed and carried by hand (yes we do that too).

Dave and kids in Manila

The motto for Habitat is to “give a hand up, not a handout!” Yet in a city of 17 million where there are 4 million homeless (and growing) we are losing the fight. In greater Manila Habitat has managed to build homes for 1,900 families a year. Some would ask “why do it”? The reasons are different for everyone, for me it’s about building multicultural bridges and building hope and the dream of a better future – and for the many hundreds of kids that will live this hope. This is why we continue.

To those of you who contributed to this build through your kind donations, thank you so much. Liz and I have brought your goodwill here, on the other side of the world to participate in making a difference.

Here is a link to my photo gallery, I hope it works for you.



El Capitan (Dave Hargreaves) and his lovely wife, Liz, have safely arrived in Manila and have begun to help with the housing project.  He’ll be telling us what happens as the it progresses, along with sending pictures.

We’re glad to know you’re both safe….thanks for keeping us updated, Dave!

Habitat for Humanity build in Phillipines
Habitat build in Philippines
Habitat Build









One of our main woodchoppers, Dave Hargreaves, aka El Capitan, has his own mission. He believes in giving back by supporting the well know organization, Habitat for Humanity. He already has one trip under his belt back in 2006 when he participated in a build in Csurgo, Hungary, and is now working towards another, this time in the Philippines, in November. Here’s what Dave has to say:

Csurgo, Hungary, Dave is front row left

“The build site is situated at Brgy. Payatas, Quezon City which is just minutes from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The Bistekville 1 Community will provide housing for 353 families as well as a Library and a Day Care Centre.

Since 1988, Habitat for Humanity Philippines has played an active role in providing decent, durable and affordable housing for low-income families. Through a network of project offices in rural and urban areas, HFH Philippines has built and repaired tens of thousands of homes. Habitat has also assisted more than 5,000 families displaced by typhoons, fires and landslides. In addition, HFH Philippines has completed over 300 classrooms.

We will assist the home partners (families that will live in the homes) and workers with tasks that are available and necessary at the time. We may do a variety of different jobs such as: mixing/pouring/hauling cement, laying bricks, transporting materials, concrete interlocking block (CIB) production, leveling foundation, excavation, painting, cleaning up the construction site, etc.”

And the Greenangels woodchoppers are proud to help him reach his goal!

Below is a bit about Habitat, taken directly from their About Us page. The photo is theirs as well and I didn’t think they would mind us using it to help Dave.


To mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.


A world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.


Housing for All – Access to safe, decent and affordable housing is a basic human right that should be available to everyone.

Human Dignity – We believe in the worth and dignity of every human being. We respect the people we serve and those who help us in this effort. People are our greatest resource.

Partnership – We can best achieve our mission through meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships with others.

To learn more, visit habitat.ca




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