A volunteering story by: Jeremy Tecktiel
I interviewed one of my friends from high school who went to South America during spring break to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. This is what he had to say. In college, I became involved in my university’s alternative spring break program. I loved the combination of traveling to a new place, learning about an issue facing a community and working to do something about it. Every single person on the sight I worked on believed in Habitat’s cause and wanted to make a difference, not only in the owner’s life, but in the world. We have painted, laid foundation, and nailed support beams in the rain, snow, and heat, without every second guessing our participation with this organization. We learned about housing challenges in the region from local Habitat staff and representatives of various groups and a local community-organizing nonprofit. We witnessed firsthand the lack of safe and affordable housing available. We started construction of a new house with a wonderful family who worked alongside us and hosted us each day for lunch. I helped paint, caulk, hang drywall, and everything else that goes into a house. I didn’t realize I was so handy until I volunteered. The experience really taught me valuable life skills that I still use today. I used a multitude of tools I had never seen, or even heard of, before. I wish that I had been there for longer and been able to build more houses, but getting back to the grind of school and regular life was necessary, no matter how difficult.
At first, I wasn’t really sure what Habitat was about. I thought that it was just about building houses, and that is the farthest from the truth. Through Habitat I saw communities built, and homes created. I have seen friendships begin, and worrying end, but most importantly, I have seen hope. I have seen hope bring life into the eyes of so many, and that is why I build and will continue to build for as long as I can. One little girl, named Eunice, became our inspiration throughout the week. She was the youngest of the family we were building a house for. At two years old, Eunice would toddle around the village and watch us work. She loved to be picked up and carried, and we all loved to hold her. Many times, while immersed in a task on the house, I would turn around and be non surprised to see Eunice right behind me with extended arms, patiently waiting to be picked up. She was the most charming distraction any of us could have asked for. Eunice was a gift. She was an earnest reminder of how important our work was. It’s odd to think that she will never remember us. But there we all were, dirty from head to toe in cement and dust, building a house for a magnetic toddler who would never know us. It felt like the most important thing in the world. On my trip, I made lasting friends all across the country and the world. I have yet to go back and visit the people we made the home for, but I hope to make it back someday soon.
The Aha! moment…
During my experience with Habitat, I learned that spring break can mean so much more than just a week away with friends. I also learned that I can be a leader of my peers and that I am stronger than I thought, in more ways than one. I learned a home can be built without power tools and construction vehicles, and I realized I loved it! There was no need for earplugs on site since there was no noisy machinery. We were building in the mountains, surrounded by beauty we could appreciate without distraction. And best of all we could converse with each other during our tasks since noise was minimal. It was simply beautiful and something I never could have imagined. Habitat for Humanity showed me my passion for helping others and taught me how to channel it in order to make the world a better place.
To summarize it in three words…
- handy, dirty, helpful
Why should you do this
I absolutely recommend Habitat for Humanity to anyone and everyone. Even if you don’t think it is for you, you have to give it a try because you don’t realize how rewarding it will be.