Vietnam 2012‎ > ‎

The Team

I’m from Singapore which is a lovely and sunny island with a lot of greenery! I have just left my previous job as a school counselor and am taking a break now. Therefore, I'm taking the opportunity to volunteer for this Habitat project. Locally, I have volunteered with a number of organizations over the years like hospital and homes for the elderly or the disabled. Working with these special people has touched my life and I have learned from their resilience and appreciate life much better. Though I stayed in Asia, this is my first trip to Vietnam and also my first Habitat project! I really look forward to carry it out and meeting the whole team!

I'm 32 years old and grew up Liechtenstein but was born in London. I currently live in Zürich, where I work part time as a software developer. I'm about to finish my studies in Financial Management and decided to celebrate this with a trip through Asia. I decided to join the project because I think its a unique way to get to know the culture of Vietnam. I've volunteered before on a monkey and puma rehabilitation project in Bolivia from which I benefited a lot.


I like to make associations, so I'll describe myself in relation to a few other team members. Like Henry, I like reading The New Yorker and listening to Jay Chou. Like Scott, I’m concerned about economic inequality. Ket took the words right out of my mouth: I, too, “thought this was a great opportunity to discover a new place while making a difference.” This will be my first Habitat build, and my first time to Vietnam as well. A current first-year undergraduate student at Barnard College, I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up (a Barnard girl , like Emily; undecided, like Joe). Like Christina, my name begins with “Christin” and like Pauline, my name ends with “ine”. My favorite book is The Phantom Tollbooth. The picture is of me at Lincoln Center, but I don't remember why my boot was off.

              HENRY H. ZHANG
I was born in Beijing, immigrated to New York when I was in elementary school, moved to New Jersey where I went to high school, and now I’m back in New York City for college. I’m currently an undergraduate in my senior year at Columbia University, where I’m majoring in American Politics and concentrating in Psychology. I joined the Habitat for Humanity chapter at the school just this October, so this trip will not only be my first Global Village experience, but also my first Habitat for Humanity build. Vietnam will also mark the halfway point—both geographically and chronologically—between my student life in America ending in May, and my working life in China starting in June.
I enjoy watching the first four seasons of Law & Order, reading The New Yorker magazine and restaurant menus, listening to Franz Schubert, Lily Allen, and Jay Chou, eating out during Restaurant Week, enduring allergic reactions to pet cats, getting those complimentary T-shirts at 5K races, catching movies at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, skiing in the Poconos and scuba diving in the gym's pool, hosting travelers on CouchSurfing, and basking in the sense of anticipation while waiting at airports. While I’ve been to fifteen countries on five continents, this will be my first time to Vietnam!

I am a graduate student studying Biochemistry in Provo, Utah.  I am passionate about science and learning.  I love traveling and meeting new people.  Hobbies include: music (classical piano), backpacking, trekking, surfing when possible, language, literature and football (soccer).  Utah is my home and I love living around such beautiful scenery.  Between 2005 and 2007, I lived in central Brazil working as a volunteer for the LDS church in South America.  During this time, I met some amazing people that lived in debilitating poverty.  Although our work was primarily ecclesiastical in nature, I still had the opportunity to get involved and directly help people through church and government sponsored community service projects.  This experience as well as many others, both home and abroad, have emphasized the stark magnitude of the economic disparity that exists throughout humanity.  I firmly believe that the global community can successfully address this issue and provide a future where everyone has access to basic necessities such as clean water, affordable food and reliable shelter.  I respect Habitat for Humanity’s approach on the issue.  By combining the enthusiasm and resources of the more fortunate with the hope of the world’s impoverished for a better future, we continue to inspire something amazing throughout the world.   

               KET GORJESTANI
I'm a TV journalist at France 24 in Paris. I was born in Washington DC and spent my early years moving around. I lived in Austria, Chad and Belgium. I returned to the US a couple of years ago for a Master's degree at the Columbia University journalism school where Ann was my professor and later told me about Habitat for Humanity.

Though I'm a travel junkie I've never been to South East Asia and thought this was a great opportunity to discover a new place while making a difference. I'm looking forward to my first Habitat trip and meeting you all.


              NOELLE EIFERMAN
I was born in Paris and had the opportunity to leave France with all the family (my husband and the three children) for 10 years in the US (first in NJ then in New York City). Back to Paris now, I enjoy traveling (India, Ukraine, Peru, .... and the US of course !).
As a painter, I use both my trips and my life in Paris to explore new ways to approach my work. 
My first exhibition in Paris will take place in March and I hope to get as much positive feeling from this as from the one I had in New York.
I am excited by this new experience in Vietnam with as a way to give but also to enrich my own experience.

I'm a journalist and aspiring photographer living in New York. I was born
in Paris, France, where I spent most of my life until moving to the US and
later to the UK. Last year, I came back to get a master's degree at Columbia
ty's School of Journalism, where I was lucky to have Ann as a
I love traveling and hope to make it an integral part of my job one day. My
last destinations include Egypt, Ukraine and India. This is my first
Habitat trip.

                NADIA MOUNAJJED
Trained as an architect, I have been mostly teaching for the past few years, working with an energetic and multinational group of  students. I love my job but recently started feeling uncomfortable with the limitations of academia and how it can sometimes be disconnected from reality. So I started to engage in community service locally and to look for volunteering opportunities that can offer hands-on activities through community related projects and teamwork. I have been aware of Habitat for Humanity for a while and am very happy to be able to join this team. 

I am Syrian with a French nationality. Born in France, I grew up in Damascus - Syria, lived in the UK for a few years while pursuing my graduate studies. Currently, I work in the United Arab Emirates as assistant professor of architecture and design.

This is going to be my first experience with Habitat Global Village and I am looking forward to it. I like to travel and was captivated by East and Southeast Asia following visits to Thailand, Cambodia and Japan. Looking forward to this trip to Vietnam and to meeting you all!

                LAURA TRADER
Hi all! I'm a 27 year old Administrative Assistant. My degree is in Business Administration. I work for a small financial investment firm near Kansas City. I have lived in the Kansas City suburbs my entire life. My family took trips every year when I was in grade school, always to the beach, my Mom couldn't stand cold weather! We generally stayed within the United States, but when my Mom was feeling more adventurous, we went to Mexico and Grand Cayman. It was always my dream to travel further.

A couple years ago I had what I call a "quarter-life-crisis." Had I contributed in any way to the world? Did I have a purpose? Since I couldn't find anyone with the funds to join my travels, or the desire to see the same places I wanted to, I started to explore options on the internet. I had heard of Habitat for Humanity from friends who had volunteered locally back in high school. I went to the site and discovered there were trips abroad and people travelled groups of about 14 and I immediately explored places that sounded interesting to me. I joined Habitat because it fit all of the things I was looking for: I wanted to travel the world, with other people, and I wanted to feel like I had made a difference. Two years later I now have two trips under my belt: Honduras and Africa, and I look forward to make more great memories with a new group of people. I look forward to meeting you all soon!

                    TOM KELLER
I am Artyom (or Tom, which is easier). I am 22, and I am a philosophy major at Goucher College in Maryland. This will be my third Habitat Build (I went to Kenya last summer, and just went on a build to Thailand this January). I am excited to be joining my parents (Ann and Larry) on this build, and am extremely excited to meet everyone on the team. I am absolutely addicted to service work, including some time spent in Ghana and Haiti volunteering to teach. This will be my second time to Asia, and I cannot wait. See you all in Vietnam!

             TANIA PIROZZI 

A native New Yorker, I love my city, but I also love leaving it.  I’ve traveled through South American and Europe (even living in Milan for a brief period of time), and have done two Habitat trips already—Tajikistan and Sri Lanka.  I love the experience of these trips, I feel like you really get a sense of the people and culture that you just can’t get on a standard vacation.  I also love getting to know the families and their stories as we build their homes along side them. 

Up until a few months ago, I had a glamorous job working as a photo editor for magazines, but left to work in the family business.  We own and manage residential apartment buildings in Brooklyn and have actually backed a builder in a small condo project for the past year.  It’s VERY interesting to see how intricate our homes are here compared to the simple walls and roofs we construct with Habitat. 

I’m looking forward to meeting you all in Vietnam!  

            ROSALYN LEITCH

I am a graduate student at Georgetown University, pursuing an M.A. in International Security and Nuclear Nonproliferation; I will be graduating at the end of May, right before the trip to Vietnam. I have also been working as a part-time intern with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission while in graduate school. Outside of work, I love running, hiking, being active and doing anything outdoors, cooking without recipes, and photography. 

I have lived in Washington D.C. for about three years, but went to college in Seattle and grew up in northern New Mexico. I’ve had the opportunity to travel in Western Europe (studying abroad and backpacking around Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and the Netherlands), England, Russia (I did a three month internship with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 2008), and Mexico (I spent a week building homes in Juarez.)

I’m really looking forward to this trip because I’m an adventure junkie at heart, and I would much rather spend my vacation time serving and engaging people than wining and dining at some posh tourist spot. I have never traveled to Asia before, either, so I am excited to experience a new culture and part of the world

                  STEVE WILLIAMS
Steve Williams Hi! My name is Stephen but I prefer to be called Steve. I was born in London and left England when I was 20 to work and hitchhike my way around the world in order to learn how  people  live in other countries. Two years and 25 countries later, I landed up in Japan where I met a beautiful, intelligent Japanese girl who later became my wife.   A familiar story!  (Unfortunately she passed away four years ago due to cancer.) I’ve been living in Tokyo for over 50 years teaching in university (intercultural communication, linguistics, non-verbal communication, comparative humor, etc.) but I am now retired. I’m ancient (74 )  but still enjoy adventure travel and getting off the beaten track. I started doing Habitat gvs three years ago and became hooked.  All were very different and great fun. I’m really looking forward to meeting you all in Viet Nam.

            ANN COOPER
I’m a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. I teach basic reporting and writing, as well as a course in international journalism.

I came to Columbia four years ago, after a long career in journalism, working for newspapers, magazines, and National Public Radio. In the late 1980s I was NPR’s Moscow bureau chief, and from 1992-95 I covered South Africa and much of the rest of the continent for NPR. After that I was executive director of the press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists for eight years. I love teaching, especially at the graduate student level.

Our students are highly motivated and very hard working -- and often more optimistic about the future of journalism than I am. Their optimism rubs off, to some degree. It’s also a real plus that my husband (and fellow Habitat volunteer) Larry Heinzerling and I live about 10 blocks from Columbia. We’re looking forward to this new experience.

I’m originally from Ohio but was raised abroad in Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and Britain. I retired a year ago in New York City after a life-long career with The Associated Press as a foreign correspondent in West Africa and South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s and later news executive in Europe and New York, where I retired as deputy international editor in 2009.

I’m enjoying the freedom of retirement in so many ways. Vietnam will be my fifth Habitat venture, after two builds in Alaska, a mission to Sri Lanka in January 2011, and a build in a camp for internally displaced people in Kenya in January, 2012, all accompanied by my wife, fellow adventurer and co-team leader Ann Cooper.

I continue to work part-time for AP and advise a number of Masters degree candidates at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University as an adjunct professor