When worked stressed me out to my maximum, I was forced to find an escape, and I chose to check something off my bucket list: Build for Habitat for Humanity! Little did I know that this trip was going to be loads of unstoppable fun! Thanks to my dynamic team, this trip was a breeze! I have too much to say about these people that I’m gonna save it for my next article.

My Amazing Team!

In July, I decided to sign up for a trip to Hawaii going at the end of September. I wanted to be able to leave work as soon as possible at a price I could afford at the time. Hawaii was the perfect choice for me as it is far enough out of the country to be counted as an “escape,” but close enough for me to be able to afford the airline prices. Being on a tropical island isn’t a bad idea either. Where’s my natural tan???

My first and only question about the trip was, “What’s a day in the life of a habitat builder like?” I wasn’t worried about my safety traveling alone nor did I worry about what things I could do in Hawaii. I didn’t know what to expect when it comes to building a house! No worries. All levels of builders, from completely clueless to professional, are welcome and there’s plenty to learn and do! But how hard is it really? Every country is different and every house is different, but here’s our schedule so you can get an idea of what it’s like if you plan on volunteering for Habitat. And you do wanna volunteer, don’t you? You big-hearted person, YOU!

First off, us clueless builders (ok, it’s me!) can’t work without the help of our experienced leaders. We had a team leader who is in charge of hiring all 15 people. He is in charge of the meeting every morning to let us know what the day/week’s plan is going to be. He drives us to the work site and dinner sites, and grabs groceries on our wish list. When we don’t know what to do at the worksite, we call him! “Hey Mark!” is what I hear all the time at the site. How he stayed patient with all of us? I don’t know. He has a lot of responsibilities, and he was really laid back and nice enough to let us do pretty much whatever we want. With about 15 people under his wing wanting to do/eat/site-see different things, he made things work! I still don’t know how he did it.

Mark and Bob

We also had Bob the Builder. The professional who worked in construction for years before he got hired at Habitat. He knows how to build, so he’s very important! He never stops for breaks and when it rains, he acts like it’s not raining. When he speaks, he speaks calmly and with a laid back tone that you’ll wanna listen. And no matter what build he puts you through, you couldn’t bring yourself up to be frustrated! His voice is so calming that you think, “Wow…everything is gonna be all right. Every thing.” And when he jokes, you can’t tell until he does that smile! Bob the Builder!

With Chris and Hannah

Furthermore, we got help from the AmeriCorps volunteers. They stay on the island for 10 and half months and get trained to build before we do. They had experience building with Habitat before, so they definitely know how things work. As fun-loving as they are, they quickly became part of our team going to dinners and the luau with us. When we left after 10 days, they have to stay and keep building. I have major respect for them for that fact. The best volunteers from AmeriCorps this team could ever have! Chris and Hannah!

Now that you have an idea on who I worked with, here’s what my day building in Kauai was like:

4:30 – Listen to the famous Kauai roosters’ lullabies.

6:30 – Rise and shine! My alarm goes off, but I hit the snooze a couple more times. At 7AM, I change into my work clothes before heading out to the kitchen to eat a healthy breakfast. I stuff myself with cereal and a croissant, but muffins, bagels, bacon, and eggs are available for everyone. Plus our resident chef, Diane, made us all delicious, Portuguese rice that lasted us two mornings! If you want your group to love you, cooking a delicious meal is one ticket to it!

7:30 – Team meeting to hear about the day’s plans. Help pack lunch and load up the Habitat vans. Bring work gloves, work shoes, sun block, sunglasses, and a water bottle. Forget one of these items, and you’ll likely regret it. Although someone will be nice enough to loan you some sun block.

8:00 – Stop by the supermarket for coffee or anything else you might be missing to get the day started. Meet at Habitat base yard to load up the truck and u-Haul with building materials. Circle up and hold hands with team members for daily blessings. On the last day, we got to feed on spam musubis brought by local volunteer, Kale! Then, I make sure to stretch my dainty muscles to get ready for the day!

Teamwork at the Baseyard

9:00 – Work site. Grab a work hat and tool belt. Listen to instructions from one of the leaders then look busy!

10:30ish – Break time! Lay’s Potato Chips partnered with the Aloha fruit drinks were my favorite. Snacks included chips, candy, trail mix, nuts, and drinks. Then back to the grind until lunchtime.

12:30ish – Lunchtime! We ate lunch on a table we brought under the house we were building. It’s complete with a table cloth because we’re fancy like that! We filled ourselves with ham or turkey sandwiches to replenish for the days work. We ate this every day, so get used to it! Then it’s back to hammering!

Sitting Pretty During Break

2:30ish – Another break time! Tired, yet? Start counting down the hours until pack-up time!

3:30 – Start packing up to head home at 4PM. I look forward to this hour the most!

4:30 – Run to a shower and get ready for dinner at a local restaurant by 6PM! Let the shenanigans begin!

We had a blast building the house as well as building the dust fence at another location. It was hard work! Be patient when you don’t get things right the first time. This was definitely my problem as hammering a nail isn’t as easy as I thought! They start to shape themselves as what Liz calls “a question mark,” and I wanna quit (or get fired) after the first 5 poundings almost every time I pick up a hammer. The nail has more curves than the Kardashian sisters. “I can’t do this,” I say afterwards then hammer away anyway, and you know what? It’s a great feeling getting the perfect nail in there! It actually gets pretty addicting, but I still have yet to learn not to complain after the first try!

I didn’t get much of a tan (darn Chinese blood!), but I did gain quite an experience. It was the perfect escape from work, shared with friends who were once strangers. I feel like I got really lucky with the team leader, the builder, the AmeriCorps volunteers, and the team that I met because we got along really well! I can’t describe our chemistry. It was such a great experience that I’m just sorry for anyone who wasn’t there!

Last Day

Thanks to Amelie for the action shots! Love her photography skills! …I don’t know. I just love these people.

Ever been on a Habitat for Humanity trip? How was your experience?

Date: September 28-Oct 7,2011

Location: Ele’ele, Hawaii

Life Experience: Build with Habitat for Humanity

4 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a Habitat Builder

  1. You sure did a great job of describing what it is like to work on a Habitat build in Kauai. I worked on a project there last October. It was a nice reminder of how some things are still the same like loading up the trucks to go to the jobsite, the roosters waking you up at 3:00am, the red dirt on the shoes, making sure you had enough sun tan lotion on because the sun sure is intense there, the views while working on the roof of the house. I almost did not recognize Bob the builder. He shaved off his big beard that made him look like Santa, but you described him perfectly. How you described the frustration for the newcomers hammering the nails into question marks, but yet having someone there to help out. I enjoyed the helping out when I was there and the joy when someone did something for the first time and realized they can do it. Glad you had a great time.

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