“Enjoy what you do and it will never be work.” We’ve all heard that saying. This typically applies to a career path or job choice. But I think it just as easily applies to volunteering. Most people would consider a full day at a construction site; climbing ladders, painting, hammering, and cutting, as doing “work.” But lucky for me, I enjoy helping in that way. So when I heard there was an opportunity to help with Habitat for Humanity in a nearby city, I signed up along with some friends! It was one of my favorite volunteer opportunities. Here are the top 5 things I learned volunteering at Habitat For Humanity.
The need is there
I live in California and you don’t have to travel far to see the need for housing. The housing crisis has worsened each year with more and more finding themselves homeless. While there are some more immediate solutions for individuals, housing for an entire family can be more challenging to come by. For some, it is practically impossible. While registering to volunteer, I learned that the homes I would be helping with were going to military veterans and their families. I have friends and family that are military veterans. So this opportunity hit a bit closer to home and made it even more fulfilling because I was familiar with some of the challenges veterans and their families face.
Friends make the experience even better
I must admit, I am a bit of an introvert. So when it comes to doing hands-on work like cutting, building, and painting, I tend to like being on my own. I like to focus on the task and enjoy the momentary solitude. But having friends work on such an awesome project, alongside me was really special. It was a day filled with paint splatters, shared laughter, and a lot of silly moments. It was a day we could reflect on happily for years to come. It was also special because I was reminded that my friends and I shared the same values and really connected on a level beyond the laughter and silliness of friendship. We were there together working hard to make the most of this opportunity–not for recognition or even peer pressure. It was a need we recognized and an opportunity to help some local families whom we wouldn’t have normally had the chance to help.
There is always something new to learn
Who knew you could learn new skills by volunteering? As mentioned, I enjoy this type of work–cutting, measuring, painting, assembling, climbing ladders. It’s great! But as familiar as I was with many of the tasks we were given, there were still a lot of things I learned. For the things I was familiar with, I found more efficient or effective ways to do it. I also learned how to do things I had never done before. For example, I had never painted the high portions of the walls along a stairwell. I never thought of how painters painted the spaces beyond their reach. I assumed a really long pole and a paint roller would do the trick. While that works in some cases, if you want a closer look and more thorough coverage, you have to get a bit closer. But how do you get closer? A ladder or two and a very thick wooden plank to walk on! With the use of the existing steps of the stairs and an adjustment to one set of legs on the ladder, a scaffolding can be created that easily adjusts along the steps, bringing us safely closer to the harder-to-reach sections of the walls.
There is always someone new to meet
Another really fun aspect of volunteering with Habitat For Humanity was meeting new people that shared a common goal. I’ve established that it was a lot of fun working with my friends, but it was also fun meeting these new people who were also on the construction site. Some were actual construction workers and home builders–actual experts. It was great picking their brain and learning what methods they used in accomplishing everything on our task list for the day. I thoroughly enjoyed all the technical lingo being thrown around. But just as there were experts from the field, there were those just as inexperienced as my friends and I; and we learned from them that there are other creative ways to successfully accomplish the tasks on our list. I really valued their out-of-the-box thinking and have held on to many of the things I learned from them and apply it even to my daily life. It truly shows that, beyond gaining technical knowledge, there are life lessons learned by volunteering.
Time well spent
Helping others, in ways big and small, is never a waste. On an individual level and as a team, we gained so much. We ended that day with a better understanding of how volunteer efforts like this truly make a difference. There is always something from an experience that will help us grow. We started bright and early at 7am and ended the day at 3pm. It was a full day of work. But since I enjoyed it so much, it really was just a full day of helping, friendship, laughter and learning. By all accounts, it was a day well spent and one I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.
About the Author:
Nan Zapanta is the host of Blueprint and is a producer at incmedia.org.