You will meet new people, make new friends. You will work with a capable, well-organized team of knowledgeable people. You will learn skills that can be used again and again. A sense of accomplishment will follow you at the end of only one day.
I have participated in five mission trips in recent years, to West Virginia and New Orleans. Those trips involve travel, expense and community living arrangements (30 women sleeping in one large room!). The possibility of sleepless nights and a lack of challenging work projects during your week there can make one reconsider this form of volunteering.
So, why not find projects that would be done right here in Buffalo? I had often thought about volunteering on Habitat for Humanity projects. I was encouraged by friends who knew that I enjoyed home improvement/carpentry projects, but I had not found the courage to step out of my comfort zone to find out how to get involved.
Enter Habitat for Humanity/WomenBuild 2010. After one informational meeting and signing up for a workshop and the opportunity to work on the electrical wiring (me?), I attended the groundbreaking on a cold day in mid-April. I still felt alone in my endeavor. The actual building started in May, with three weeks of work by female architecture students from the University at Buffalo. I showed up on my appointed day at 8 a.m. and watched as the students donned their tool belts and, of course, pink hard-hats.
The first time is always the hardest, but the day flew by as a new friend and I moved wheelbarrows of stone from a site down the street. Yes, this was what I was waiting for -- the opportunity to donate my time here -- and I got to sleep in my own bed!
Typical work days started at 8:30 a.m. and ended around 3 p.m. With the help of the students, the floor, walls and roof were built on the four-bedroom ranch home. The electrical wiring commenced once the inside wall framework was completed. When I would tell someone that I was working on the wiring, they would be amazed. It went like this: Here is the wire and it needs to be run up and over, from here to there. After answering more questions, our supervisor watched us closely and she gave us helpful advice. After we passed her inspection, the entire house was passed by the city inspector. On to other jobs, like siding, trim, putting up drywall, laying floors, insulating the walls, building the porch railing, cleaning out the yard, etc.
And you may remember, 2010 was a hotter than usual summer here in Big B by the bay.
Our next WomenBuild is scheduled for five years from now -- or it could be sooner. Until that time, we have the opportunity to work on Habitat for Humanity rehabs in which an older house is gutted and totally renewed.
We have a contingent of wonderful women -- did I mention that the best part of the project was the friends that I made? -- who are committed to continuing our volunteer work in this community.