Carter Work Project Day 5: Getting Busy Building Community

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habitat-for-humanity-carter-work-project-volunteersIf I had to boil my five days of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity’s 2013 Carter Work Project (CWP) in San Jose, it would come to this: good people can make a difference in their communities, even in the face of overwhelming problems.

All week long I couldn’t help contrasting what was happening at the national level with what was happening right in my own backyard of Silicon Valley with CWP. The government was shut down, seemingly mired in an impossible conflict, yet all of us working on CWP were getting something truly good done in our communities. Groups like Habitat are tackling huge issues like affordable housing, and make a real impact. Of course Habitat couldn’t do what it does without partnering with municipalities and governmental agencies, but it’s not chained to a political process that sometimes leaves the most vulnerable in the dust.

Thanks to hundreds of volunteers, nearly 30 families in Oakland and San Jose were helped in very valuable ways. Work on a dozen new homes in Oakland progressed, renovation work on two homes in San Jose came closer to completion, and about 15 homes got things like new roofs, energy-efficient windows, new insulation, siding, and numerous repairs both small and large. 

The impact of this work will ripple outward into the communities involved long into the future. For example, one family I met was getting new energy efficient windows during the CWP. It was one of the smaller projects of the week in San Jose, but the impact for that family will be huge. Not only will the family be much warmer and more comfortable during the winter months, they are looking forward to paying lower energy bills in the years to come. Spending less on energy could translate into greater spending power for that family in the local economy, or bolstering their savings for the future.

Another family I spoke to, a single mom and her daughters, will not spend the winter worrying about rain dripping into the inside of the house, or the house eventually crumbling from water damage. They didn’t have the money to fix the roof or the siding, and like the other family I mentioned, they were spending a lot of money on high energy bills each year. The home is now water tight and ready for the rainy season.

And consider the tremendous impact on the families buying new or renovated homes through Habitat, families who never dreamed they would be homeowners. Thanks to all the people who donate money to Habitat, and all the volunteers who work on the homes, and of course the new homeowners’ sweat equity, these families can invest in a more secure future for themselves and their children.

One of the sayings leaders of Habitat shared with the volunteers all week is that Habitat builds “homes, communities, and hope.” From what I witnessed during the CWP, I would say that is a true statement. I would also say that no matter what the volunteer project or charitable donation, we can all build communities and hope each and every day in both small and large ways.

We could throw up our hands and give up in the face of large-scale problems, or we can, as Rosalynn Carter told the volunteers and donors in San Jose on Tuesday, “Get busy!” Hundreds of us got busy in the San Francisco Bay Area during the CWP, and we made a difference.

How will you get busy?

Read the entire CWP series:

Day 1: A Culture of Kindness

Day 2: Habitat is a Gift

Day 3: Volunteers are Cool

Day 4: Kindness Continues