Habitat for Humanity

Working to benefit individuals, families, and the Athens community.

Service work is an important component of Freshman College Summer Experience because it builds character and reminds the students at the University of Georgia just how fortunate we are to have the opportunities we have. This aids in our growth and maturity as people. Students in Freshman College did different service projects depending on what service class they were placed in. This summer during Freshman College Summer Experience, my service class volunteered for the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is an international, non-profit organization that builds affordable houses for people in need. It was founded By Millard Fuller in 1976. Habitat for Humanity uses volunteers to help build houses. Habitat’s most famous volunteer is Former President Jimmy Carter, but they also have very average college kids, like us.

My class on our last day of working for Habitat for Humanity

Before we went to the work site, we had a lunch meeting in the Hearth Room of Bolton Dining Hall with Spencer Frye, the executive director for the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity. He told us about how he met our professor, his time in college, and how he came to work for Habitat for Humanity.

On Thursday from 1:00 to 3:00 for three consecutive weeks, my class went to the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity work site, which was in a small, quiet neighborhood. It was hard to believe that the area used to have a high crime rate. Habitat was working on several small houses that were identical except for their cheerful paint colors. We mainly worked on the outside of the houses, doing many different jobs such as pouring concrete, digging ditches, and staining wood.

On the first Thursday, I helped stain the porch railing of two houses with several other girls. We worked quickly, so it wasn’t long before we needed more work to do. Three other girls and I had to cut down the high grasses in front of one of the houses so that we could reach the other side of the porch railings. That didn’t take long, so I borrowed a machete from a worker named Caleb, who was my favorite, to chop the branches off some bushes that were in the way of where a porch railing needed to be built. I cleared away most of the branches, and then it was time to sign out and leave.

On our second day at the work site, the first task I did was staining boards that would go on the sides of the roofs of the houses. When that was done, we moved the boards inside one of the houses to keep them there until they were needed. After we moved the boards inside, I told Caleb that I wanted something else to do, so he gave me an electric saw and had me chop up a small fallen tree until the pieces could all fit into a wood chipper, which was actually pretty fun. I worked on the tree until it was time to leave for the day.

On our third and final Thursday working for Habitat for Humanity, I helped a few boys from the class dig a ditch and build a small wall out of the dirt to prevent one of the houses from flooding. This house had already been flooded once previously, so it was very important that it didn’t happen again.

When I first heard that we were doing Habitat for Humanity as our service project, I was rather apprehensive. I didn’t really know anything about construction work, and I was nervous about what I would have to do. I wound up really enjoying my time with Habitat for Humanity. The work was not easy, but I actually had a lot of fun. It was nice to get to work outside with my hands instead of sitting at my desk in my cold dorm room, typing away at a paper (like I’m doing right now). It felt good to get all dirty and sweaty and to know that I was helping these people make a difference. I wish we had been able to work more than just once a week. I would definitely volunteer with Habitat for Humanity again.

Digging a ditch

Habitat for Humanity helps all of the people that it builds homes for, but it has also had a great positive impact on the neighborhood where we were working and on the Athens community as a whole. During the meeting that we had before we went to work for Habitat for Humanity, which I mentioned earlier, we learned that thanks to Habitat for Humanity, the crime rate of the neighborhood that we were working in has gone way down. This improves the lives of not only the people who will get to move into these new homes once they are finished but also the lives of the people who were already living in the neighborhood when Habitat for Humanity started building there. The people who lived in the neighborhood were so friendly to us. They were always smiling and waving when we drove by, and when I pulled up on the first day, they were happy to direct me to the work site.

It was wonderful to meet the amazing people who work for Habitat for Humanity. Two of the workers were college students from Germany who were spending some time in America to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. My favorite worker, Caleb, was humble and friendly and always willing to help. I really liked that he didn’t act like the girls were fragile and couldn’t handle the tools we were using. This was a pleasant change for me, and I appreciated it more than he’ll ever know. If I could go back, I would tell him.

It felt amazing to know that the work that I was doing would help people who needed it and make a positive impact on Athens. Athens is my home now, and it was an amazing experience to be able to meet such selfless people and work to benefit individuals, families, and the community.