Habitat for Humanity is an international, non-governmental, and non-profit organization devoted to building “simple, decent, and affordable” housing. Builds use donated land, material, and volunteer labor to keep mortgage payments affordable. Prospective owners are required to put in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity”.

There are so many ways to help out this great organization, from office work, event planning, and deconstruction. I, however, wanted to build a house. It was as simple as registering online for my eight-hour shift and showing up at the build site. I did attend the optional orientation which is simply a history of the organization and overview of all the ways you can volunteer, including internationally.

I arrived at the Huntington Beach site in the early morning. A path of loose gravel spilled into the sidewalk welcoming me. I walked up the makeshift gravel driveway to a massive wooden skeletal structure that I would later find out was eventually to be a two-story, four-unit home. It was a frosty morning and the sun hadn’t committed to rising yet that day. I was greeted by some other volunteers which all knowingly pointed in the direction of the steaming coffee next to the sign-in sheet. I poured my first. It would be far from my last.

After brief introductions, I learned the build was a few weeks into construction and today’s plans was to wire the place for electrical and to frame out the rest of the second story. We quickly split off into teams lead by Crew Leaders and I began my day being instructed how to properly install electrical boxes, run wire and read the construction plans that would tell me exactly where it would all go. Everyone there was super nice and incredibly patient. Throughout the day I also helped others with random tasks and near the end, I helped frame out one of the second story walls.

Selflessly putting in a full day’s work evokes feelings that I can’t put into words here. I never met the people who will occupy the home I help to construct, but they are in my thoughts as I’m sure I am in theirs.

Website: habitatoc.org
Orientation: Yes. Not mandatory.
Commitment: 9hr. installing electrical boxes and wire.
Cost: $0

This entry is part of 2011’s Project 365 – Volunteering 12 places in 12 months.