Habitat Blog

Building Stuff

This blog, by Linda Hartsema, a former regular volunteer at our 7555 Mission Street site, was originally posted July 15, 2012 on her blog Peanut Finds. Re-posted with her permission.

Actually building something, I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did. For about a year and a half I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco at their Mission Street site in Daly City, a new housing development consisting of 36 condominiums.

I started out volunteering two days a week and reduced to one day when I got a job. It was a fantastic experience and I feel so glad and privileged that I had the opportunity to help build houses for people and alongside these same people as they were putting in what Habitat calls their ‘sweat equity’, the 500 hours families put into building their own homes as part of the requirements for homeownership through Habitat.

The great thing about it is that the future homeowners are working together (and on each others houses as well) so when they finally move in they will all know their neighbours. It’s so simple yet so clever.

When I first started I did not really have any hands-on experience as the work. However the staff and the Americorps crew were always helpful and never looked too annoyed when I made them repeat things a third time…

A small challenge for me was the fact that I know what various tools are named in Dutch but I never had the need to know this in English so getting asked to go to the tool room to pick up a snips, cats paw or sawzall was an adventure and sometimes included return trips. But I learned (to a large extent) and even felt brave enough to get my own tool belt at some point.

The work on site was varied and no two days would be the same. On Tuesdays when there were only regular volunteers on site, there would be training provided. Although in the beginning my brain would only absorb about twenty percent of the information, as I got more familiar with two by fours, king studs and cripples the percentage increased. On the other days of the week there would also be large groups of day volunteers which was fun as you would meet lots of different people.

Waterproofing, roofing, siding, dry walling, you name it I did it. Although I still can’t remember what that yellow stuff is called (I think it’s sheetrock)…

I learned some pretty cool tricks too but by far my favorite was using these magnets to put into the sockets to cut out a hole in the dry wall after putting it up. If that makes no sense, trust me it was cool as was using the air pressured nail gun to put up window frames (just that once)…

I was sad to say goodbye to the site, the people and their fantastic spirit and would loved to have witnessed the new homeowners moving into their homes, but it has giving me lots of inspiration and food for thought and it has certainly made me appreciate all I have.