Lafayette Habitat for Humanity
I loved the 2 weeks we spent working with Lafayette Habitat for Humanity. To begin with everyone at the affiliate was incredibly welcome and accomodating. Joelle and Sam from the office got us settled and along with Matt the construction supervisor, gave us a through introduction the day before we began building. On site, Matt and construction assistants Stew, Brandi, and Mike were very helpful as we worked on each of the 4 houses under construction. Local volunteer Wes was also amazing to work with – particularly in helping me trim out the attic access – and one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. As usual I learned a lot on this build and had the opportunity to work on new projects. One of the most exciting things was being able to assist in laying out the slab which is something I’ve wanted to do for some time. Though Matt was definitely doing the bulk of the thinking work in transcribing the floor plan to the concrete I learned quite a bit while assisting measure and chalk the slab.
Other projects I worked on included installing trim, laying laminate flooring, adding blocking, sheathing walls, wall raising, and general rough framing. With 2 houses in the finishing stages and two houses just being framed there was plenty going on and plenty to do. Luckily athletes and Americorps undergrads from the University of Louisiana Lafayette volunteered with us throughout our 2 weeks and gave the affiliate an opportunity to accomplish quite a bit. Most of us care-a-vanners worked as supervisors for the student athletes on multiple days, getting them acquainted with the construction site, the tools, and the specific tasks at hand. Together we made visible progress. I worked with a half dozen or so students over the 2 weeks and I was impressed with their interest, willingness to learn, and dedication in doing the work which made it a rewarding experience.
I’ve had a few opportunities before to work with new volunteers before as well as to teach skills to fellow care-a-vanners but I must admit that teaching is not always the most comfortable role for me, and that it’s taken me awhile to grow into the part. But working with some of the (really exceptional) student volunteers felt very natural this time around and is something I’m now eager to do more of. As I reflect on working with these new volunteers I’ve come to the conclusion that my progress in becoming comfortable as a teacher is as much a product of having acquired some competency as it is of not feeling that far removed from my first few builds in Las Cruces: my memory of hitting the same 16p nail 20 times – and then bending it at the last second – is still fresh in my mind. Actually I’m reminded of it every time I hammer because I’m still no good at hammering nail… but in all seriousness the thing that made all the difference to me was having Dyana next to me as a a patient and willing helper, there to encourage me. And keep encouraging me no matter how many times I failed. I doubt I can ever be as supportive and knowledgeable as Dyana is because she’s an amazing instructor but I aspire to help empower new volunteers and provide them with a positive first experience so that they can realize their own potential – and also hopefully continue working with Habitat for Humanity.
In addition to enjoying the opportunity to work with the college students, I had a wonderful time working with my fellow care-a-vanners. The 8 of us had a lot of fun on site each day as well as during dinners, cookouts, and brewery visits. I honestly enjoy working with pretty much every care-a-vanner I’ve met but it was a real pleasure to build with Larry, Mem, Mike, Sandi, Helen, and the two Toms. The two homeowners I met – Chandon and Paulette – were also fantastic to work with on site – full of smiles and laughs. Paulette, a mother of 5, was particularly excited as her home nears completion; one of her sons uses a wheelchair and she is eager for him to be able to move into the accessible home. The Lafayette Habitat affiliate honors all their hard-working partner families by creating their a page for each on their websites; reading them I learned these families’ stories and paths to attain homeownership and provide a better life for their children. These pages were seriously inspiring and it warmed my heart knowing a little more about the people I was building with. Sam, who works at the office, did an incredible job creating them and I encourage you to check them out.