Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that works to provide decent, affordable housing to millions of homeowners in need all over the world. The organization is run by Habitat for Humanity International, but consists of local chapters all over the world which work with a large degree of autonomy to provide housing in their communities. The specific chapter that I am working with on my co-op is Habitat for Humanity: Greater Orlando. Our chapter is one of the most successful and active chapters in the country which, during my co-op, just reached the milestone of building its 250th home. The homes are built mainly through the efforts of volunteers who work under the leadership of crew leaders (particularly dedicated volunteers) and construction supervisors (full time employees with career experience in construction).
People who are interested in becoming a homeowner first attend information sessions to see if they might qualify. The qualifications to become a homeowner include a demonstrated need for housing, low income, decent credit, and a lack of a criminal record. Next, those prospective applicants can apply to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, but the process is not over if they are accepted. The organization does not believe that simply handing out cheap housing is the best way to insure success. The homeowners are to become involved in the process of building a Habitat home by putting in from 300 to 500 sweat equity hours during which they might assist in the building of another homeowner’s house. Also, they are to complete several courses in fields related to homeownership such as basic home repairs and budgeting. Once the home is built and the homeowner’s commitments are fulfilled, they buy their home for either the appraisal cost or the cost of building (whatever is lower) and pay it off on a zero percent interest loan.
My Place in Habitat
As a construction intern, my daily tasks revolve around exactly what the title entails they might: I usually work directly on the construction of homes. However, this does not limit my learning experience to one in which I just learn trades. My role in Habitat is ever evolving and changing, giving me a variety of experiences to take away from this co-op. Typically, I work with the volunteers in the field, with the home preservation program, or with the outreach department.
The bulk of our construction is done by volunteers; though, we also hire subcontractors to do the jobs that require a large degree of skill. The volunteers are at the build sites often; we have volunteers approximately three times per week. Depending on the job task, we can have anywhere from 5 to 60 volunteers on any given day. My role with regard to these volunteers is to act as a crew leader. I do not have the authority of the full-time construction supervisors (and, indeed, I should not), but I am placed with several volunteers to insure that they complete their task properly. This position exposes me to a myriad of different people with varying life experiences, prompting me to adapt to each one and grow in my communication skills.
As part of a grant from Universal Studios, Habitat has been commissioned to do small exterior repairs and full exterior wall painting on 100 homes in the next two years. Due to this opportunity, Habitat has dedicated a large portion of its resources to this program. Thus, I work with this program on most days in which we do not have volunteers. During the preliminary stages, I help assess the state of the house and do the small exterior repairs. This teaches a lot of home repairs skills that are much more practical than the roofing or framing that I might learn in construction. Then, on the last day that we work on a particular home, Universal sends in a group of volunteers to paint the house. During these days, I am usually the second highest ranking employee on the site, so my leadership skills are tested along with my painting knowledge.
I have also been called upon to do my part with the communication aspect of Habitat. The organization makes use of my comfort with public speaking by calling upon me several times to speak to prospective donors and at events. Also, my basic understanding of photography has proven to be the most training that anyone in the organization has in the field, so I have served as the resident photographer a few times. Lastly, I have been a part of coordination with several news outlets, as we commonly have newspapers and news stations visiting us at our sites.