Building a women’s movement: stories of empowering women through Habitat’s National Women Build Week

My first experience with construction was when I was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. I was very much a fish out of water. I remember how nervous I was trying to figure out what to do on the construction site. It wasn’t until years later when I started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build crews that my nerves turned into confidence. The women taught me basic construction skills, including how to properly hold a hammer so that I can leverage the swing and weight to drive home a nail. I’ve gained so many skills over the years through these experiences, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is a personal one- to have confidence in my strength and ability to learn.

I began working at Habitat for Humanity in 2001, and in 2008, as fate would have it, I joined their Women Build program and that same year we launched National Women Build Week with our biggest supporter-Lowe’s. The event, which occurs each year the week leading up to Mother’s Day, brings together women across the country for a week of building and repairing homes in partnership with people in their communities. It encourages them to become more civically engaged, while also empowering thousands of women in the process. That first year, we hosted builds in 150 communities and brought together more than 5,000 women volunteers and 500 Lowe’s Heroes. In the years that followed, we’ve steadily increased the number of participating communities — each year rallying more women volunteers around our mission while teaching them new skills in home construction. This year we are expecting more than 17,000 women to participate in National Women Build Week, pushing us over the 100,000 mark for women volunteers in the past decade.

We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of National Women Build Week next month and I couldn’t be prouder of how the event has taken off and the women who have joined us on the journey. I recently led a team of Women Build volunteers in building a Habitat home with a family in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and I got to see the awesome power of one woman’s family. The homeowner’s mother and sister joined our team as we set the roof trusses. Let me tell you this-lifting and setting a roof truss into place requires multiple hands, a lot of strength and precision. Our group of 12 women completed the job in one afternoon, which is impressive. But it pales in comparison to the homeowner’s mother. She was on the worksite almost daily and helped build her daughter’s home. Imagine that-a mother helping a daughter build a home. And that’s just one of the many examples I’ve seen over the years of women who possess incredible power and determination to improve their own lives and help others.

As we move closer to Mother’s Day, I encourage you to join the women in your family and community and help us celebrate the 10th annual National Women Build Week. It’s a week for you to get involved, get to know your neighbors and strengthen the bonds holding your community together. You will meet new people, make friends and walk away empowered.

Women Build opportunities are available year-round across the U.S., and any woman who wants to learn how to build and construct a home is invited to join. No experience is necessary. To learn more, visit www.habitat.org/wb.