I began working as a regular volunteer with Habitat the first week of my retirement just about six years ago. I joined up with Habitat because I was interested generally in affordable housing and, as a former college administrator, wanted a retirement focus that had nothing to do with meetings, hiring and firing people, or managing budgets!
So I came into Habitat work with virtually no construction experience or knowledge — I had never touched a Skilsaw, barely knew my way around a table saw, and thought a speed square was a personal insult of some sort. (Imagine my great joy when I first used a Ramset gun!)
Three years later I was leading the rehab of two houses for my Hilltop church’s entry into an affordable housing ministry!
As an educator I always thought colleges & universities were the ultimate teaching-learning organizations. Not so, I now realize.
It’s Habitat for Humanity. Site managers have a great deal of knowledge & experience, and they share it freely, of course. But the real teaching-learning action, so to speak, is among the regulars and one-day volunteers. Everyone is teaching or advising others, everyone is learning from others (sometimes even a site manager learns something from a volunteer), and all of this flows into a house that is built with 80-85% volunteer labor. These houses would not happen otherwise. And a key element in the Habitat formula is volunteers who both learn and teach.
So, in the end, yes, I get satisfaction from contributing labor to an important non-profit enterprise related to affordable housing – one of our great social needs these days. But it’s the opportunity to learn every time I walk onto a Habitat site, and the prospect of teaching something to another volunteer, that keeps me coming back week after week and year after year.