Habitat for Humanity
A volunteering interview by: Cole Hobert-Swanson
Habitat for Humanity
Spokane Washington, my birth place and home is located on the far east side of Washington State. Specifically five minutes away from the Idaho border. It is here that I learned the integrity and attitude it takes to help my community, and city. Foggy days consume Spokane during the Spring and Fall, which cause low visibility and mixed with random sunshine throughout the valley. This home of mine showed me many things in my vast years I experienced its roots. My family and friends were a huge part of my experiences and I thank them for that everyday, the community has always played a great partner to those assets in life. Everyday we the community played a part in each others life, by helping maintain yards to tearing down our old barn, even digging out the old tractor frame the barn was built on. When I look back on it I had so much inspiration around me, influencing my constant desire to pleasure those in need. I feel that thought of myself to be more of a sin then a burden, to take others before thy self is a life down a financial
spiral. Spokane has taught me to endlessly love, but over these vast years I’ve come to the conclusion to do my part. Lets get our focus back on the community I had the chance to serve. I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Spokane, Washington during April right after I had finished my GED. Spring that year was incredibly moist, fog covered the entire valley and downtown for what seemed like weeks. So there were no outside projects going on for Habitat for Humanity, but I got to spend a lot of time with the team there by cleaning the office and seeing what later that year had in store. Typical office cleaning needs, kitchen, trash, and vacuuming obviously but it wasn’t a chore doing it while the people around me were planning things for less fortunate than most.
I proceeded to help around the Habitat for Humanity office for a few weeks, then the weather finally cleared into frosty sunshine. After a day or so had passed I realized that the offices landscaping was shy of a abandoned ghost town overrun with tumble weeds, and dirt blowing threw the air like children throwing dandelions. I first spent two days of this sunshine taking care of the weeds and maintaining the surface area of the grounds. During the process of landscaping I ran into a few baby birds that didn’t make it, sadness was brought to us that day at Habitat for Humanity. Finally after finishing the surface area I worked on controlling the gravel that used to reside in there flower beds was now on the sidewalk and on the edge of the road. The next day I wired there chain link fence back together and cleared brush around there storage facilities and parking area. While cleaning around the storage area I noticed a flyer about there summer program building homes for families in need. I immediately went into the receptionist Sarah, and asked her about the program, she said “Yes, every summer Habitat for Humanity builds homes for those in need”. I wanted to be apart of this more than my 8th grade basketball team, I went home straight away and marked the days on my calendar two weeks threw mid July, and two weeks in August. I was more excided than Ralphie in the Christmas Story, when he got his Red Ryder B.B gun, but I didn’t shoot my eye out! After finally cleaning up around the whole office of Habitat for Humanity I focused on my community by helping plant young evergreens(Specifically Red Furs and White Furs) in our neighborhood, That was most defiantly my favorite part of living in the Pacific Northwest fresh pine air every breath.
I stayed busy helping my neighbors and family during the two month downtime until I could finally par take in a great task to accomplish something that is priceless. The power to make people feel is a power most take advantage for pain and fear, but when you incorporate it with love and comfort, mixed with a backbone for them to not worry about? A building is more to someone who has never had a backbone, support, a home. You could relate it to a full body case of goose bumps when you are seeing there faces, the aura that moment brings is nothing less of breathtaking. An eternity passed by, or that’s what it felt like to me, but the day had finally came! I got on the public bus and rode it to Napa street, which from there I walked the short two blocks to Habitat for Humanity. We were instructed to meet Sunday for Mondays game plan to building these homes. As I approached the building I noticed swarms of people all with smiles and eager personalities. Friendliness must have been the topic for that night because I received nothing less of pure joy and great vibes from positive thoughts, ideas, and conclusions. Sleeping that night was completely useless I felt so anxious that I don’t think I even closed my eyes. I got a ride from my grandmother Monday morning to an address located just north of my house, when I arrived there were quite a lot of people already there gathering around someone in a orange safety vest. I quickly ran over to the group so I could listen and see what was about to happen. The man in the orange safety vest was handing out safety glasses and hard hats to everyone that had showed up to the event. I received my glasses and hardhat and asked “what can I do?”, The man said “You’ve done enough just by showing up, but there are some flowerbeds to be built in the back go with this young lady and she will guide you”. I took the young ladies hand and walked around this concrete slab(later in life I found out it is called a Foundation) there was piles of fresh dirt, sand, and gravel in the backyard. She told me “why are you here helping young one?” I hastily replied “I wish to help those in my life” she smiled, and asked me to grab 4 pieces of wood and bring it to her. I watched in amazement how she measured the wood, marked it, and cut it so precisely almost like it was natural for her. She noticed my astonished face with a smirk she stated “I am a carpenter, and do this for my life choice” my eyes grew large as I gasped at her “why would you do this for your life choice?”. Her blue eyes stared into mine, and said “I wish to help those in my life, and this is how I do that” an understanding came over me at that point, I realized that it took multiple people all with different abilities and strengths of there own to master one fully functional unit. We placed the wood into a rectangular form, we then measured the length and width of the structure, then proceeded to dig down about seven inches in an area big enough for the form. That hole gave me many blisters but taught me to also persevere threw pain for your goal, we picked up the form and placed it into the hole, and formed the dirt around to its sides. We then placed 4 inches of dirt down and compacted it, followed by various amounts of flowers. Just a touch more dirt was placed in, then lightly sifted gravel into the flowerbed to finish it off. That was our first day contributing to the overall project. On the next day as I approached the project I noticed that the house structure was already built but looked different from the other houses, when I got close I noticed that it was all plywood still and no siding or exterior had to be applied yet. I had not noticed all of yesterday while I was busy building a flowerbed that the house was being built right behind me, I franticly searched for the man in the orange vest. Inside the house is where I found him, I asked “Sir may I please do something inside the house today?” He looked at me with a smile and said “of course!” He said you can tape off all the finished trim in the house for the painters, I was excited to do anything for the house. He gave me three rolls of blue tape and showed me what I had to tape off including doors, windows, bottoms of the floor and put down plastic to cover up things that were finished product. That whole day went by as I can only describe me battling plastic to stay in the right spot, blue tape not sticking to dusty areas, and moving the ladder to reach high up places I could not reach. I was mentally and physically exhausted by the end of it, but what I did that day had a huge impact on how fast the painters could finish and get the carpet in after it dried later that day. The overall house completion with accomplished in two days, with another day to furnish and decorate them interior of the home. That second day was the last day I helped work on the project, but not the last time I saw it, nor did I miss the unbelievable miracle that we did for a beautiful family. We gathered early that Wednesday morning to prepare for the families arrival, approaching the finished project was a really eye opening experience for me in my life. As the family approached the house it sent a aura of smiles across every single one of our faces, they stepped out of the car to meet over 30 people that cared for them. The family was full of emotion in every single thing they said or did, I’ve have never been in a 30 person group hug besides that moment, and I am alright with that. We quickly urged them inside to see what there new final home, not apartment, not trailer park, but there home. The children’s faces were priceless running into there own separate rooms and seeing how different they were, the parents loved there room the paint to the carpet everything was perfect for them. I gave every single one of them a hug that day and left knowing all of us had truly cared and showing love to a complete stranger is an amazing feeling.
Well, in my life I have many inspirations, including my family and my friends I surrounded myself with. Growing up in a big community as I did, we had multiple people that we would regularly see. My uncles lived down the road and always offered snow removal services during the winter and tractor tilling during the summer. I often made it a chore to see them at least everyday so I could get a jump on any new work starting up. My grandfather whom was a contractor by trade for 40 years of his life was a great inspiration to my young life, he showed me how to establish building forums all the way to making trusses. He taught me all this by building his cabin with him in Walla Walla, Washington which has been very useful to me as a trades man threw my years. I feel like I volunteered mainly because I believed it to be the right thing to do, I felt as it was my job to at least show up and help towards a final goal. Volunteering taught me many things about people, houses, kindness, and even integrity. I think back everyday on what I have learn from not only positive inspiration in my life, but also what being a positive inspiration meant to others, and that I am truly thankful for. Another huge part of my inspiration came from m grandmother who has been there for me threw it all, she has stayed positive, understanding, and loving to me threw all of my experiences I couldn’t ask for a better life, and I am thankful everyday.
The Aha! moment…
I learned an incredible amount from my experience with Habitat for Humanity and also from serving my community. Habitat for Humanity taught me perseverance when I started with them, to see the positive threw the harsh weather, and the long days. Later it taught me integrity by taking control of my surroundings and handling situations. The experience even taught me the cruel fate of death from another livings perspective, I still have remorse for having to handle those dead birds, but I remember them and that keeps me happy, that they still live on threw my experiences. Moving on Habitat for Humanity taught me how positive ideas mixed with a good support group can make incredible things possible for those less fortunate. In a way it prepared me for the life I was growing up to live, being up before the sun, being apart of groups that work towards goals together, to accomplish feats you could say. I learned how to properly build a flowerbed with wood and how to diversify your soil from gravel ratio. As well I learned how to tape off rooms, doors, trimming, and windows for painters to accomplish there task. Overall the whole experience left me with one lesson I truly am blessed to share with others, Integrity.
To summarize it in three words…
Why should you do this
I recommend anyone that has free time to volunteer for anything positive, to get involved with complete strangers and be treated with friendship, everyone needs this experience in there life time.