Volunteering: Build a House with Habitat for Humanity

For those of you looking for a volunteering opportunity, Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization worthy of your consideration.  Habitat volunteers help the disadvantaged build their own homes.  Habitat offers interest-free loans to those who would otherwise be unable to afford to buy their own home.  It’s a great place for volunteers who are interested in learning new skills that they can apply to renovate or maintain their own homes.  Two Habitat chapters operate in the Bay Area:  the San Francisco chapter and the Silicon Valley chapter.

Signing up online might be difficult (too many volunteers, not enough slots, bad weather) so I encourage you to contact the organizers listed on the sites directly for more information about how to get involved.  There is also a student-run chapter at Stanford that might welcome your help.

You do whatever the team is doing that day.  Each day is different.  The experienced volunteers are good at teaching you how to do things – you just need to be willing to ask how to do things and to try.  Yes, you might get really dirty, but you and your clothes are washable!

I first got involved with Habitat in Canada, my home country.  In Canada, I framed windows and reclaimed brick, etc.  In the Bay Area, I helped the Silicon Valley chapter build six houses in Santa Clara over a seven month period.  After my first day with the Silicon Valley chapter, the foreman told me I could come back the following week without registering online.  In Santa Clara, I did a lot of framing; roofing; siding; tiling; priming; and painting alongside a team of dedicated seniors.  Over time, four other Stanford Wives joined in; the five of us did a lot of good work!

Working with a bunch of retirees is not so good for networking towards a job, but it’s great for getting construction tasks done as the seniors know what they’re doing:  many of them volunteer Wednesday through Sunday each week with Habitat Silicon Valley.  On the weekends, younger (employed) people volunteer, but they often aren’t adept at construction, so progress is slower.  Also, I would imagine you’d want to spend the weekend with your spouse!

In Los Angeles, I have volunteered with the Greater LA chapter of Habitat to do minor repairs on homes owned by low-income families through the “A Brush With Kindness” program which helps preserve housing stock in the city.  Next Thursday, I’m putting my hard hat on again!

For me, the biggest benefit of volunteering is that it renews my sense of self-worth.  It’s often too easy to define oneself through a job; in the absence of a job, volunteering gives my confidence a boost!

Helsa, blogging in Los Angeles

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