Habitat for Athens

How 6 Hours of Work Helped Change a Community

Day 1. As I drove up to the Habitat for Humanity build site for the first time on the morning of July 6, I was expecting to do some work that would not be too tough on myself or any of my classmates. I mainly expected to do menial work such as painting or hammering nails, but I was in for a big surprise. It turns out we were in one of the worst neighborhoods, and a lot of work needed to be done. I was assigned to dig a ditch on day one and I figured that just two hours of digging couldn’t be too bad. I began digging, and the more I dug, the hotter it got. With the sun beating down on my back, my thoughts went from “Two hours won’t be bad” to “How much longer until I can leave?”

When the day was finally over, I saw how much progress we made in that short amount of time and was amazed by the results. I decided, however, that I did not want to come back and dig for two more hours next week.

Day 2. I was willing to do anything other than dig the ditch for another week, but I had no idea what was next. Before I knew it, I was on a ladder inside of one of the houses destroying wood with a hammer. The wood was rotting and the roof was decayed, and within the first five minutes I was covered from head to toe in black sawdust. It was unlike anything that I have done so far. There were countless times I was hoping that someone would ask me to do something else, and countless times that the sawdust got in my eyes, but I knew that the work had to be done. Doug, who was the head of the build, told me multiple times that day that I got “the short end of the stick” and had one of the toughest jobs on the site. When I started the job, I had no clue what I was doing or how to work the saws and drills that I was handed, but after a couple of hours, I could have explained to anyone how to do it themselves. After the first few minutes, I stopped trying to shake off the sawdust and just wanted to get the job done. Before I knew it, it was 11:15 and time to start getting ready to leave. Even though the work I did was tough, I was a little disappointed that we did not get the whole roof knocked out, and I was ready to come back next week and finish the task.

Taking a water break and chatting with Doug.

Day 3. When the third day of Habitat began, I was more excited and optimistic about the work ahead. Just seeing the progress made so far had made this experience satisfactory because I knew that we were creating a better community in return. While the roof destruction was complete by the time we returned, there was still a lot to be done. I walked up to meet the group, and just looking around the place before even starting helped me to see the progress that had been made since we got there, and I have never been prouder of myself, my classmates, and the other volunteers who selflessly worked to make the community better.

I started off basically doing the same job I did the week before, but this time I was working from outside the house, prying off foundational wood for the roof. As soon as the job began, I was eager to learn how to use certain tools and certain techniques. On day 3, I worked with Joel, who was a volunteer himself, and he taught me a lot about using power tools and how to make proper measurements, and I appreciated this information because I would love to build a house on my own one day. As the day came to an end I found myself reluctant to leave, and I really wanted to see how the project would look when it ended. It was a bittersweet ending, but I know that our class helped make an impact on our new community by allowing low income families a place to live.

Over the course of just three weeks, my idea about service learning changed, and I knew that we were making the community we now call home a better place. Even though it was some of the toughest work I have ever done, I was happy to be leaving the small community on Magnolia Terrace in a better situation than it was just three weeks ago. It truly was amazing to see how a group of college kids and their professor could have such a huge impact in such little time. While I did not consider it life changing in the moment, I would go back and do it all over again just to know that the community is a better place in return.