When you hand a girl a power tool….

I never would have considered myself a person who would actually be a beneficial component of hammering boards on a deck or using a power saw to cut down weeds that grew to the height of a six-foot-five man. I mean, isn’t that like kind of a guy’s job? I can’t do that and why on Earth do you want me to even try to do it and ruin it making someone else come and fix it? I always saw this as something that would be a dreadful experience and that I was the absolute worse person for that job. I still may be.

It wasn’t until my service learning course at The University of Georgia where I found myself at a worksite in a poor neighborhood in Athens. I always thought that Athens was the beautiful classic city that The University of Georgia always prides itself on. The city with the arch, the hedges, and the beautiful historical architectures that students are lucky enough to call their classrooms. I always thought Athens was such a beautiful place to be, but I never knew about the homeless population roaming the streets or the homes without electricity or running water. This came as a complete shock to me and my instincts were to help, but how? Me, an eighteen-year-old girl who enjoys getting her nails done and has a hard time handling the pounding heat of the sun in Georgia? How can I go from getting my nails done to hammering nails? I wouldn’t trust me to build a house. Thankfully, Habitat for Humanity gave me a glimpse of what I am capable of and other ways that my hands can physically change some people’s lives.

As we got to the site where Habitat for Humanity was working at, I was definitely appalled by the shape the homes were in. The ceilings were falling apart, while the yards were filled with weeds as tall as the bushes. Seeing with my own eyes of the kinds of conditions of rooms people called their homes in my home of Athens made feel shocked and upset with myself that I did not know that part of my community looked like this. I needed to get to work.

Part of the first day consisted with me staining a deck that the Habitat for Humanity members created. With every stroke I made, the more bored I got and the more useless I kept feeling. Nothing can brighten up a girls’ day like the sound of power tools and sawdust to create a little bit of excitement. Aren’t power tools a girl’s favorite accessory? Right? Somehow, someone was in the wrong mindset and decided it was okay to give me an electric saw to cut down the mile-high weeds. I was skeptical to using the battery-powered injury just waiting to happen, but I finally felt like I was actually doing something other than making wood look prettier.

As I finally got more comfortable with the tools, someone saw my lust for machinery and gave me a new job; cutting boards of wood. At first, they were crooked, but as I continued to perfect my skills, I finally made a perfect cut of wood. Then, of course, I messed it up again. Oops. The best part about it was that the wood that I cut would be the wood build the deck that I was helping to build. Again, someone thought it was okay for me to handle a nail gun to board the pieces of wood together. Soon enough, the deck was coming together. Callye, Carah, and I did it. Well, thanks to Phil and the rest of the Habitat for Humanity crew, but we also did it. It wasn’t the guy I sit next to in one of my classes who did it all. It wasn’t one of the workers who did all the work. I did something.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow, this girl is really competitive with one-uping guys”, but in reality, I really just want to make a difference to the people moving in these homes. My family has been through times where we needed a little bit of help with finding a place that was not a complete disaster. The Habitat for Humanity experience was absolutely enlightening for me, but also motivated me in such a way where I challenged myself to get work done that would have a lasting effect on the people moving into these homes. They may have comment on how nice the wood looks, but what about that deck for them to sit and maybe read a book on? The paint inside really brightens up the room, but what about their very first lawn with grass? I wanted the power tools and the jobs that had sweat dripping down my back because I wanted to make a difference in these homes and not just waste my time there for service learning credit.

This experience that I have gained from Freshman College has been an enlightening experience. It has given me so much more than just a credit for service learning or time to get acclimated to my new home. Freshman College has given me a new perspective of what Athens really is and I am beyond thankful for that. I will continue to work on making all of Athens a better place for our community. I hope that one day I can put my degree in Social Work towards this and hopefully continue to work with the inspiring Habitat for Humanity group.

The Habitat for Humanity unfinished homes in Athens