May 22, 2014 2:05 pm

Habitat for Humanity: building a home for a family of 14

The 8 hours I spent volunteering for Habitat for Humanity provided some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in years. Peter Kim, Allison Vuchnich and I were part of a crew, that consisted partially of grade 10 students from the area.

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What amazed me was the number of volunteers who dedicate weeks, months, and even years, to building homes through Habitat. There was a recent architecture graduate as well as another individual who is looking to get a job in construction- both of whom turn volunteering into an ongoing win-win situation. By helping build a home for a family in need, they master skills that can further their careers in the industry.

I’ve got to admit, the first half hour was a bit intimidating. There we were, standing in the basement of a massive structure. Basically, the shell of a house, but the crew leads were amazing. They set us at ease, and within half an hour, our construction skills evolved from laughable to doable.

We were putting up steel studs, and framing bathroom walls and closets. We even removed the entire front entrance and put it back into place to allow the door to swing more freely. I also picked up some new vocabulary: RO, as in rough in. That’s the framing for an entire room and we worked on the RO master bedroom.

As a journalist, I’ve covered numerous Habitat unveilings, but at 3,600 square feet, this home was 3 times the average size. Why was it so large? Well it turns out the home is being built for a family of 14. The family consists of 12 kids, 5 of them with disabilities and another suffering from leukemia. We learned the Toronto family has been getting by in a 2 bedroom apartment and were instantly motivated to work harder.

Habitat’s mission is simple – through volunteer labour and donations of money and materials, they build and rehabilitate simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner “partner” families.

Habitat prides itself on being a HAND UP, not a HAND OUT. Homeowners must invest 500 hours of their own labor called “sweat equity” into building their Habitat house and the houses of others.

All Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans. Then, the homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build more Habitat houses.

The Runnymede build should be finished mid-July, and I will smile every time I drive by.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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