Learning Through Labor

My Story of Athens Habitat for Humanity

Me after working in the house

I remember when my professor said that this was a service learning class and that we would be partnered with Habitat for Humanity. I thought to my self, “ It can’t be that bad, I bet all we will be doing is painting or some other boring activity like that.” I thought that I was just going to show-up, work for like and hour, get my class credit, and that would be it.

I was wrong.

The time that we were supposed to be at the Habitat for Humanity was 1:00 in the afternoon. Which, in Athens, Georgia, is not a time that you want to be outside. I had only been there about ten minutes and I could already feel the sweat running down my face and soaking into my shirt. For the most part the people around me had gotten the jobs that I kinda expected. Then it came down to the final group of us, and with the look in his eye I could see that the director of the site had something special planned for us.

“You guys are on ditch duty” was all that I heard before my heart dropped. We followed him to the spot where the work was to happen and he painted two lines on the ground where we were going to dig a ditch. After that, we got to work.

A group of students working on the ditch

The work was hard to say the least. The ground that we had to remove was filled with twisting roots that would jar you every time you stuck you shovel in, and the rock would make your teeth rattle as the metal blade of the shovel glanced off. This sucked. We were all covered in mud and drenched in sweat and hot and we just wanted it to be over. Then the man in charge came over and could tell that we were all through with work, but he did something that would change the way that I looked at the labor we were doing.

He pulled out his old phone that I was surprised was still working and said “Do you want to see how big of an impact that ditch will have on the people that will live here?” Of course I said yes and he showed me a video that he had taken of the house on a rainy day. Water was rushing from the parking lots behind the house down into the area we were working. The torrent of water was flooding the house as quick as the water would come down.

He said “What you just did their with that ditch just made this house livable for a family. It is going to a family that have trouble renting apartments or other houses, so Habitat buys the house and we fix them up and we rent it to these families in need without interest.”

It was at this moment that I completely changed how I viewed the work that we were doing.

The work that I was doing was bigger than me, it was bigger than everybody there. The labor that we were providing fueled something called compassion. This compassion is what drives the human race. Without it everything that we know would fall apart because of hopelessness. What we did that day was create hope, hope that would go to the families in need. This hope would fuel the fire of compassion for these people, so that one day they will turn around and help someone in need. That one day the people that we helped would complete the cycle and provide hope for someone else. This is how we, as human, will continue to thrive, and its all come down to you. To go change the world for the better, to give someone hope, to be a compassionate human.

The morning class at Habitat for Humanity

After, this realization I could not wait to comeback next week and continue the work that we were doing.

The next time that I was there, me and one other person worked a roof that had rotted out and it was our job to put up the support beams in the house so that the roof could be fixed. The work grueling. I was covered from head to toe in rotting wood and old insulation. I had to fit into the cramped roof while putting up large pieces of lumber into even tighter spaces. I almost fell off the ladder a few times, and lets not forget the time the hammer went whizzing by my head as it fell from a board in the roof that I was removing. Nonetheless, I loved the work that I was doing and no matter how tough it got I did it with a smile on my face, and I cannot wait to go back and do it again.

In the end, this experience along with freshco has helped me realize the person that I want to become. It has helped me see a side of the community that I normal would not have been able to see before. To give me time working with people in a way that I never done before. Being able to help people has gone hand in hand with my career choice of being a doctor. This chance has given me a glimpse into what my future may hold, and I loved working with people that I worked with while at the Habitat for Humanity. Also, freshco has given me the opportunity to connect with my peers and the people that I will eventually be working with one day. It has given me a head start on making friends and connections for my college years to come.I would rather be here at the UGA community than any other place on the planet.