Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Habitat, and Where it's Taken Me

My sophomore year of college was about the time I decided to stop being so lazy and actually do something with my free time, other than playing Call of Duty and Command and Conquer: Generals. One of the girls on my floor, Kim, was involved with Habitat for Humanity and the idea of putting my construction skills to good use for charity was a good one. I attended a few meetings to see what it was all about, and then signed up for a fundraiser to meet some people. At the time the the closest house we were able to work on was Jefferson and Pell Lake, so a few Saturdays a month we'd meet up and carpool out to the jobsite to help out where we could. Professional contractors would be running the job site, with experienced volunteers leading different parts of the project from putting up walls to installing windows. Eventually our county was able to raise enough funding to build 3 houses just south of Whitewater, and by this time I was roped into being the Webmaster on the Executive Board for the campus organization.

Part of being on the Exec. Board involved doing pretty much every event that was planned, including the annual Spring Break trip. Every year when other kids would be off drinking and partying a group of about 50 students would board a bus and head down south for week of working. In 2007 when we were headed to Mobile, Alabama, which was still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. A neighborhood of 15 Habitat houses was being assembled, and we were tasked with starting two houses ourselves. But first, we arrived at our camp.

We had been warned ahead of time that we'd be staying at a camp that was primarily used to house vagabonds such as ourselves, and they weren't kidding. Set a bit off the highway, our camp was occupied by a handful of AmeriCorp volunteers that were doing longtime work on the same Habitat site as ourselves. The sleeping quarters were small, with twin sized mattresses pack anywhere from 3-8 in a room. Showers were a separate building, and needed a thorough cleaning before anyone even thought about using them. But there was plenty of open space, and a huge kitchen and mess hall perfect for our group. And there was a pool! Though the previous occupants...

...were still around. Even that didn't stop us, though. We found some cleaning equipment and scrubbed it up to the best of our ability, and then played makeshift volleyball using a hose for the net.

Our first day of work Brad, the site supervisor went over the basics of the site. And by basics, I mean he taught half the crew how to use hammers. And also that you will get fried to a crisp unless you use ample amounts of sunscreen, you Wisconsin fools. He split us into two crews, one working on each house. One would be under him, and one would be under his co-worker Cory. So work began, and even though it seemed at times that there was too many chiefs and not enough Indians, walls were put up quickly and work got done. Besides Cory and Brad there were two other older gentlemen that were in charge of specific projects going on. One was Ansen, a British expatriate who had been traveling around the country when the idea of working for Habitat caught his eye. I have to admit, I had no idea what he was saying for the first 2 days because his accent was so thick, but after a while I went to him with most of my questions. Hearing the word "bollocks" out of a real Englishman never gets old.

Continued tomorrow...

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