As the man by the water’s edge returned my greeting, I became acutely aware of the enormous gap in privilege that separated us. At the edge of this stinking pool beside a squatter village on the outskirts Cagayan-de-Oro (Mindanao, Philippines) in September 1993, he went about his daily washing routine … while I could only imagine the hardship of his appalling living conditions. I already had over a decade of witnessing poverty in Africa, India and South-east Asia, but this was more confronting … somehow more personal. And from that time onwards, I became determined to use my engineering and managerial skills to help improve the living conditions of our Asia-Pacific neighbours.
A young man with responsibilities for a wife, four daughters and a mortgage cannot simply give up paid work, but, with foresight and commitment, you can work progressively toward making your contribution to improving the lives of others.
I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to volunteer my professional services during the last 35 years - first assisting Opportunity International, then as a Board Member of Habitat for Humanity Australia and (for the last fifteen years) as President of Partner Housing. Supported by my wife, Robyn (who herself volunteers extensively) and encouraged by the selfless commitment of a team of other volunteer building professionals, we have built up Partner Housing to be the unique highly-professional volunteer international not-for-profit building NGO that it is today.
Rod Johnston is a civil/structural engineer and builder with 50+ years’ experience in design and construction in Australia and overseas. He has been active in serving and leading not-for-profit international NGOs for over 35 years. Rod has Masters Degrees in International and Community Development and Structural Engineering.