Old West Federal Team Member Builds Homes for Families in Bali

Tara Dreher has always been drawn to community service. She coordinates blood drives for the Red Cross, and in the winter she staffs food drives and a local warming station for homeless residents in her community.

But the Old West Federal Credit Union Loan Analyst wasn’t going to stop there. “For a long time I wanted to do something bigger,” said Dreher.

Last year she came across a program called Global Village that’s run by house-building nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. The program invites volunteers to travel and serve families in developing countries for anywhere from two to six weeks. Dreher was hooked.

She knew a trip like this would require a big sacrifice of both time and money, but as she put it, “I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to apply.”

Dreher applied for a two-week trip and was quickly accepted. Then came the challenge of fitting the trip into her work schedule.

“I knew I was going to have to take a couple weeks off,” she said, which was more vacation time than she had available. “Old West granted me the second week unpaid, which is amazing.” The credit union even offered Tara a donation to help with the cost of the trip.

“I’ve never worked for a place that cares the way Old West does,” said Dreher.

“We are proud of Tara and our other team members who have given of themselves—their time, talent, and emotional and spiritual energy—to serve others,” said Old West President & CEO Ken Olson. “Community is more than buildings or a spot on a map. It’s a sense of common purpose and caring, and Tara’s mission was a prime example of that. It’s the epitome of what Old West’s volunteer program is all about, and our credit union, our members, and our local community will benefit from Tara’s experience.”

With work squared away, Dreher got down to choosing a destination from a shortlist offered by Global Village. “A lot of people go to places they know a little about or feel comfortable with,” she said. “I did pretty much the opposite.”

Dreher chose the place she knew the least about—the Indonesian island province of Bali. Soon she was pulling into the small Balinese village of Gobleg.

Some know Bali for its idyllic tourist destinations, said Dreher, but few travelers know about the poverty that lies off the tourist circuit. “Going in, I knew very little about the poverty in Bali,” she said.

Over the course of two full weeks, Dreher and her fellow volunteers helped build two small houses in Gobleg, for two different Balinese families. “I had never done anything like that in my life,” she said. “You pick up the skills as you go.”

But they didn’t work alone. The soon-to-be homeowners worked side-by-side with the volunteers.

“When you’re working at a blood drive, you don’t get to see who that blood helps,” said Dreher. “You don’t get to see the other side. But in Bali we got to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the people we were there to serve. Working right next to the families whose homes you’re building changes a person.”

Dreher said that there was a ceremony at the end of the build where a translator was called in to help the families communicate with the volunteers. “I’ll never forget watching those parents and children tear up with emotion about their new homes.”

She said that she’s already plotting her next trip. “I came up with a shortlist of future trips before I even left the island,” she said.

Dreher will keep volunteering in her own community, too. And encourages others to serve locally and abroad.

“Plus, I picked up a bunch of new skills I never imagined,” she said: “mixing cement and mortar, digging a water cistern and latrine, filling foundations, painting, and more. It was by far the most eye opening and wonderful experience of my life. I truly left a piece of my heart with the families and children of the village.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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