I interned at Habitat for Humanity in the summer of 2015 as a Marketing & Fundraising coordinator. In this role, I was in the office organizing corporate build days for businesses around Halifax. I also got to help build one of the houses when we had our staff day on the build site.
All of the staff from the office come onto the build site for one day each Summer so they can see what the experience is like for all of our volunteers. We started our day getting outfitted with safety gear. We had to let the crew know our shoe size a few days before, so they would be able to bring steel-toe work boots that fit each of us. We also got hardhats, safety belts equipped with a variety of tools, safety googles, and work gloves. We were also given Habitat for Humanity t-shirts to wear on our build day a few days prior. We were then given our safety training by our build site manager and had to practice sawing a few scrap pieces of plywood. There were quite a few volunteer leaders on the build site; these are people who typically have experience in construction and are there to share their expertise.
Next, we took a tour of the house and the work that has been done so far. The basic structure of the house was already up, and we were working on installing the windows and cutting the plywood to make the stairs. This was quite a difficult task that involved a bit of math – maybe brush up on your Pythagorean theorem.
Water, lunch, and snacks were provided on the build site. There are a few other families who own Habitat for Humanity houses on the same street, so one of these individuals came out to introduce themselves – and bring a few other snacks.
My build experience was especially rewarding, as I knew the story of the family that were going to own the home. The future homeowners have to put in quite a few hours on the build site themselves, so there’s a chance you might be working alongside some of these individuals.
The work itself was very physically intensive. I really wasn’t used to walking around in heavy steel-toe boots, and ended up being quite worn about by the end of the day. The tasks we were assigned was easy to learn, and there was lots of guidance and supervision. There is quite a variety of tasks that need to be done in order to finish the house, for example, digging the foundation, putting in the insulation, or painting the walls. You may be able to schedule your build day based on your interests.
The experience we had was very similar to corporate build days. Companies donate some money, usually a few thousands dollars, and bring their team onto the build site as a team building experience. All food and water is included in this experience, and it’s a great way for your team to bond, give back to the community, and get active. Of course, everyone (above 16 years old) is always welcome to come and volunteer on the build site totally free of charge.
I would recommend that everyone help build a house with Habitat for Humanity at some point in their life. It’s a great way to give back to your community, and helps break the cycle of poverty. It also gave me some appreciation for how difficult it is to do physical labour – I gladly returned to my air conditioned office.
Like this post if you want to hear more about my volunteer experiences!