Americorps Service with Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity

As I mentioned a couple posts back, we came to Santa Fe in order to work with the Habitat for Humanity affiliate here. More specifically, for me to serve an 11 month term with SFHFH as a Construction Site Supervisor through Americorps.

Americorps, for those of you not familiar, is a public service program administered by the government that aims to assist nonprofits and other agencies meet critical needs in their communities related to poverty, environmental issues, education, and more. There are a few different programs within Americorps which can lead to some confusion (notably the NCCC or National Civilian Community Corps which are teams of young adults ages 18-24 who work together on assigned short-term projects throughout their service; the association of Americorps with NCCC has resulted in my being questioned since I am older than these members) – but the program I am part of consists of service positions to which you apply directly. Meaning, I sought out and applied to this specific opening at Santa Fe Habitat.

As to why I chose to apply to an Americorps program with Habitat rather than continue to volunteer at different affiliates, the answer lies in my desire to deepen my commitment to building affordable housing. About a year and a half ago Tom and I had decided we wanted to dedicate more of our time to working with Habitat and began scheduling more frequent Care-a-vanner builds. We loved – and still love – the experience of working with different affiliates and learning to build using different techniques, but we both began having more difficulty leaving the partner families we built alongside – not to mention leaving their houses unfinished when our time there ended. Wanting to continue increasing our knowledge in order to magnify our impact too led us to consider the benefits of building somewhere long-term, and would simultaneously allow us to get a more in-depth look at a single affiliate.

It was at one of our Care-a-vanner builds in Santa Fe in May 2016, where the volunteer coordinator gave me some information about the Americorps program which led us to begin tentatively planning to return. We liked the Santa Fe affiliate for multiple reasons, but it was their commitment to green building in conjunction with affordability that really sold me; I believe green building is wonderful in and of itself but I am a huge proponent of it’s incorporation into building in order to make the home financially sustainable for the homeowner. Working with SFHFH also interested me because building here would offer the opportunity to learn new construction tasks (flat roofing, concrete pouring, welding, solar panel installation, electrical, etc.) that aren’t often done at other affiliates plus the chance to build a different style of house. There were other factors which I’ll likely discuss in later posts, but these things were the initial draws in combination with the employees and regular volunteers at the affiliate.

My term with Santa Fe Habitat began the last week of August (which does mean I have a bit to catch up on). I am here with 2 other Americorps members, Callahan and Alexander, through July 2018; we all serve as Construction Site Supervisors which means our primary responsibility is to lead groups of volunteers on any of the 3-4 houses that are concurrently being built. On days when we don’t have groups (or need to supervise in general) and it’s just us and the “regulars” we just get to work together on whatever tasks need to be done. I do enjoy helping new volunteers, teaching and empowering them, but the ability to just “do the work” and /or learn new tasks on some days is a really nice perk.

What’s also been really nice about working here in Santa Fe is the witnessing of a triple (!) groundbreaking during our first few weeks here; 3 families and 8 children will be housed in these homes. Us 3 Americorps are guaranteed to see/build these houses from start to finish during our time, which is pretty exciting too. Some of these homes are already underway as I’m writing this but in our first month in Santa Fe we largely worked on the 2 homes already underway: Carolina’s house, where we picked up with drywall and painting, and Sylvia and Aron’s house in which we got to insulate and deck the roof, install/flash windows, rough in the electrical, and finish framing portales (porches) and the shed.

Alexander and Callahan screwing in drywall with Construction Supervisor Rob

Hanging water-resistant drywall in the bathroom

Carla’s groundbreaking

Amber’s groundbreaking

Raquel’s signed studs that be incorporated into her walls

Callahan cutting blueboard insulation for the roof

Alexander screwing the OSB decking down over the blueboard

Longtime volunteer Elmer setting the canale (drain) over the portale (porch)

Installing windows

Working with homeowners Sylvia and Amber to lay down protective flooring over the concrete

Callahan drilling holes in preparation for pulling wire

Construction Asst. Supervisor Daniel and I laying block for the foundation of the adobe wall

Rob demonstrating the spray gun on Carolina’s house

Selfie as a painting assistant. I learned I’m pretty bad at spraying, partially because I couldn’t see much.

Callahan and I learning how to use the abrasive cut-off saw

Setting posts for the coyote fence

Tom, Alexander, and Callahan putting up the latillas on the coyote fence

Working with new volunteer Alison on installing trim at Carolina’s house

Carolina working with long-time volunteer Joyce on getting ready for her kitchen light fixtures

Daniel, Alexander, and Carolina forming her (Copacabana style) walkway

Alexander and Daniel putting in remesh in preparation for the concrete pour

Construction Supervisor Rob and Callahan fitting Carolina’s countertops

Working with new volunteer Virginia to install countertops

Me learning to weld

Finally, I want to mention how fortunate I am to be working with such great people. My fellow Americorps members Callahan and Alexander in particular are awesome; we’ve had a lot of fun already while we’re building.

Alexander is a more stylish painting apprentice

Callahan smiling through the endless drilling for electrical rough-in

Me weighing down the cardboard recycling