Habitat for Humanity – Women Build

July 27, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008 will go down as the day I faced my recently acquired phobia of heights and wobbly ladders, and mastered my fear of power tools.   The weather did not favour the construction crew on the Georgetown Habitat for Humanity building site – but we all hung in there.


This was my first day on site but by no means was it the first day of construction.  I was assigned to house C.  The foundation walls were erected and some of the floor joists were installed.  My first assignment was to help move the lengths of wood supports on the site to my house – if you slide them through the window opening and then have someone guide them to the basement floor it takes less energy – that meant climbing the wobbly ladder up, then down into the house.  The top of that ladder was the bottom of the first floor but seemed a lot higher as I stepped from the ladder onto the top of the wall where I balanced for what seemed like minutes, then carried my leg around and onto the top rung on the other side of the ladder.  At one point I “took the elevator instead of the stairs” – I missed the bottom four rungs and landed on my toosh.  There would be more of that, as I slid off the mounded dirt trying to maneuver the long lengths of wood, tripped and fell back into the mud, got my footing stuck under a plank, and on several occasions jammed my toes into the steel toe of my boot as I jumped down off the mound of dirt.   But I kept going, sweating (and I hate to sweat), lifting, helping, hammering –  one large LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) beam was lifted into position on the walls, the headers were positioned over the window frames, and more joists were put into place. 


I decided to tackle my fear of that first floor wall when a request was made to climb up onto it to hammer the boards in, I volunteered – besides being very awkward with the hammer, I was very nervous about falling off the wall (a little like humpty dumpty) – and wouldn’t you know it, the rain came.  As the weather changed from sun to clouds and the first crack of thunder was heard followed by a flash, then rain – the song rang out “unplug the power tools”.   I couldn’t get down off the wall and got drenched.   I think I may be more of the fetch and carry kind.   But I wasn’t giving up, I wanted to learn to comfortably operate the skill saw, so I took a quick lesson, and off I went zipping 11 ¼” pieces out of an 8’ , 2” x 4” plank.     


It was great to spend the day “working outside”, for Halton Women Build week, under the direction of many a skilled tradesperson – half of them from the Women In the Skilled Trades program (W.I.S.T.).  There was a feeling of accomplishment, a certain comaradery, and an anxiousness to return and build some more.  


Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Program promotes the involvement of women in the construction of Habitat houses.  Habitat for Humanity’s mantra “offering a hand up not a hand out” is seen on the site where the future home owner invests sweat equity in their own home construction. The soon to be proud owners of these new homes, are lucky to have such dedicated volunteers steering the assembly of the three homes. 


I am scheduled to return to this site in the coming weeks.   I am also a volunteer builder with Habitat for Humanity Toronto and a member of the Women Build Key Club.  My goal for the Toronto chapter was to raise $500.00 by the end of May to help construct the first Women Build homes in Toronto – I fell short of the goal necessary to participate in the building blitz but none the less I am eager to participate in this all women project. 



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