My Experience of Working With Habitat for Humanity

By Matthew Li 

A few months ago, when we were being presented with the very diverse selection of Winterims available to us, I figured, other than the trips I’d like to go to on, I might as well use Winterim as a time to get a service project in. I signed up for Habitat for Humanity, since it offered a potential service project, and figured sports commentator Ryan Holland would bring enough humor to the week of working.

Habitat for Humanity is an NGO, founded in 1976 in Americus, Georgia. Their mission statement:

Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.

When I saw on their website that “[demonstrating] the love of Jesus Christ” is first on their list of principles, I was surprised since, during the entire Winterim, there was no mention of religious affiliations. This is because Habitat for Humanity also has a non-proselytizing policy, in which they do not, and do not affiliate with any entities that proselytize (while working with Habitat).

Because the spirit of community service thrives so much at OES, the work we did didn’t feel to me like a crazy, eye-opening, emotional, raw experience. Most of us had already worked in a shelter kitchen, sorted clothes, and spent some amount of time with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. At the same time, working full days–while our other friends were traveling to exotic places or spending the week doing recreational activities–and still feeling entirely fulfilled at the end of each day, was a new feeling. I had been given the option to go on the dogsledding Winterim in Minnesota and turned it down because I wanted to put my time towards a service project. (Sorry Liz and Lauren) Going into the Winterim, I wondered if I would regret not going to Minnesota. However, the work we did actually felt good in a lot of ways.

Our week and a half was split into different locations, which we spent a few days at for each. Three of our days, which were also my favorite, were spent in Northeast Portland at a building site for a housing complex that will go on to house ~15 families. During these construction days, we learned an awful lot about what goes into building a home. I found it really interesting that houses are still made almost entirely out of wood; there isn’t some cheaper synthetic material that we use like we do for so many other mass manufactured commodities. Jesus loving or not, I also found that working with the on-site leaders didn’t make it feel like we were working under an organization as large as Habitat really is. There was hardly any separation between those leading and volunteers, everyone was extremely friendly and we ended up meeting a lot of really interesting people from around the world, most of whom were other volunteers on site that day. Going downtown and handing out sack lunches, sorting materials at the ReStore (kind of a Home Depot but for recycled goods), and visiting a tiny house complex were also very wholesome days of Winterim.

Overall, Habitat for Humanity is definitely a Winterim I would recommend. As I mentioned, I joined the Winterim to receive a service project, and so I will be returning to the construction site on weekends for a few weeks, as well as establishing a dialogue with the leaders so that I can see the complex to the end, and hopefully meet some more of the families that will be living there. Here are some photos taken by Kara:

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P.S. Lincoln, we will miss you. Keep on doing that digital dash 💵 💴 💶 💷