Build­ing bet­ter lives

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Heather McCracken

BUILD­ING houses for some of the poor­est peo­ple in the world could help turn an Oranga teenager’s life around.

Sev­en­teen-year-old Gus Sanft heads to Ethiopia next month with Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, un­der the su­per­vi­sion of builder Marty van der Burg.

The pair met when Mr van der Burg de­cided to get to know lo­cal youth af­ter set­ting up a Neigh­bour­hood Sup­port group.

“I just think you can sit back and be judge­men­tal, or you can get to know them and make a dif­fer­ence,” he says.

Gus had come to po­lice at­ten­tion for in­volve­ment in vi­o­lence and gang fights.

“I just used to get into trou­ble a lot,” he says.

The teen turned down the of­fer to go to Ethiopia at first, but was talked around by fam­ily mem­bers.

“Ev­ery­one was telling me that they would want to go,” he says.

“Marty just kept com­ing around and then my fam­ily got into it.”

Gus says he doesn’t know what to ex­pect from the trip, but is ready for any­thing.

The trip will form part of a com­mu­nity ser­vice sen­tence, which will also be served on Habi­tat build­ing sites in New Zealand.

Mr van der Burg hopes the trip will give Gus a new per­spec­tive.

“I re­ally felt quite strongly that he needed to come to Ethiopia,” he says.

“He’s a good young guy, and I per­son­ally think he’s got lead­er­ship po­ten­tial.”

Mr van der Burg has com­mit­ted to build­ing a house in Ethiopia, at a cost of $2500, for ev­ery build­ing project he un­der­takes in New Zealand.

He led the first Habi­tat team from New Zealand to the African coun­try last year.

“I wanted to open other peo­ple’s eyes and show them the sit­u­a­tion for the Ethiopi­ans, but also do some­thing prac­ti­cal, so Habi­tat was per­fect,” he says. “The peo­ple there are amaz­ing. They’re much more so­cia­ble and con­tent, even though they’ve got noth­ing.

“It just touches your heart in a way you can’t ex­pe­ri­ence here.”

The team of 24 vol­un­teers from around New Zealand has been fundrais­ing for the past six months, rais­ing about $70,000.

A fur­ther $2300 is still needed for Gus’ costs.

The group will work build­ing mud and rock houses in De­bre Ber­han, in cen­tral Ethiopia, for three weeks from Septem­ber 20.

And they’ll be equipped with shov­els and spades do­nated by the West­ern Springs Ro­tary group.

Pres­i­dent Stephen Moor­head says they were im­pressed by Mr van der Burg’s en­thu­si­asm for the project.

“They’re a group that are re­ally get­ting on and help­ing peo­ple.”

To help with fund­ing, email Mr van der Burg on mvd­burg@pl.net.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Pitch­ing in: Builder Marty van der Burg shows Gus Sanft, 17, the tricks of the trade at a Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity build­ing site in Ora­tia.

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