I’ve always loved that saying, “It takes a community or a village to raise a family.” My experience with Habitat for Humanity proves every word of that to be true.
Four years ago, my son and I were living in a very small, one bedroom basement suite, which was ill-equipped for raising a toddler. We had a hot plate and a bar fridge for appliances. I didn’t have a lot of hope for a secure future, as I knew in today’s economy it would be near impossible for me as a single working mother to scrape together enough money for a down payment on a home.
I heard about Habitat from some friends, who encouraged me to apply. At first I was skeptical, as I was under the commonly misunderstood impression that Habitat existed as a charity organization, which provided free housing free homeless people. I did some research and discovered a very different truth: that Habitat is about partnering with working families to provide safe, comfortable housing which is also affordable.
So, I applied, and when we were chosen to be a partner family for the 6 unit Piercy Build in Courtenay, I was overjoyed. I will never forget that day. I went out and myself a pink tool belt and overalls, rolled up my sleeves and immediately started my sweat equity hours, first at the Restore, then on the build site.
I’ll admit, there were days I didn’t know how I was going to get through those 500 required hours. I worked full time, parented full time, and then on my days off I was swinging a hammer, raising walls, and hanging drywall. By the way, if you have ever hung drywall, you know that this is not a task for the faint of heart. If I never have to hang drywall again, I’ll be thrilled.
In spite of being totally exhausted, and of feeling like the road would never end, the day finally arrived when I received my keys and my young son and I first opened the door to our very own home…every last hard working minute was absolutely worth it that day.
I have to be honest, what amazed me so much more than watching my home take shape, was bearing witness to the selfless, dedicated work done by all the volunteers. I cannot say enough how important these men and women (whom I proudly call friends) have become in my life. They worked tirelessly, day after day, in pouring rain, in summer heat…to build homes for people they didn’t even know. There were many volunteers (some well past retirement age) who showed up to work on the build site, I kid you not, EVERY single day for two years. The overwhelming gratitude I have for them is so hard to articulate. I thank God for all those who volunteered their time unselfishly, giving of themselves that which money cannot buy – the kindness of their hearts. Because really, in a world where rarely does anything come free, it was so incredibly humbling to see this kind of generosity in my community.
As a mother, this journey, this organization has given me security, peace and confidence for our future. My son will grow up knowing how so many people rallied to provide him a safe home. He will be secure, connected to his community, and loved. Our little 6-unit complex in Courtenay is already like a small family…we share food, we share coffee, we even sit together around propane campfires in the driveway. We care for each other, yes, but it’s our common effort in the building of our own homes, which has bound us together like mortar between bricks. We are living proof of what can be achieved when we lift each other up and give each other a helping hand.