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How Volunteer Construction Work Helps Strengthen Communities in Need

For anyone interested in volunteering, there are numerous opportunities both at home and abroad. From teaching and farming to medical and construction work, there’s something for everyone.

Many opportunities will require experience or credentials ― Doctors Without Borders, for instance, will require you to be a licensed physician, as opposed to someone interested in becoming a physician. However, for those interested in volunteer construction projects, experience isn’t often a prerequisite. Though it is important to have a can-do attitude and an impeccable work ethic.

Volunteering to help build a house is a unique opportunity to bring joy and stability to people who need it most. It can be a rewarding experience that benefits the volunteer as much as it does the person or family receiving the house, but there are a few things to keep in mind before getting involved.

Getting Involved in Volunteer Construction Projects

Volunteer organizations are not all the same, and finding one that suits you and provides the best opportunity to truly make a difference can be tricky. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you search for an organization to volunteer with:

  • Know where your program fees go. Program fees keep volunteer organizations afloat. Do a little digging and find out where the bulk of these fees go. If it’s not clear, that’s probably a bad sign.
  • Do a background check. Most organizations will ask for references and/or conduct a background check on you. You should do the same. There’s no point volunteering for an organization that doesn’t have a community’s best interest in mind, including the way it treats not only its patrons, but its volunteers. Will they protect you, and keep you safe from common construction site accidents?
  • Is the organization socially responsible? What impact are they having on the local community? Are they really invested in making a difference? Some organizations will be more socially responsible than others.

The benefits to the local community, particularly the family getting the house, are profound. Building houses satisfies a dire need and has a lasting impact that can be felt for decades. There are also tangible and intangible benefits for the volunteer.

As a construction volunteer, you’ll unplug from technology and spend quality time outdoors. You may learn valuable new skills, and you’ll most certainly develop lasting friendships with other volunteers. However, there are also career-strengthening benefits to volunteer work, such as:

  • Volunteer work can be a great networking opportunity.
  • It may help you explore new career options you wouldn’t have considered.
  • It will give you the chance to develop leadership skills.
  • Volunteer work will look good on your resume.

If you’re wondering if volunteer construction work is for you, ask yourself these three key questions:

  1. Do I work well with others?
  2. Am I able to follow instructions?
  3. Am I willing to work hard?

If you can honestly answer yes to all three, you will likely find volunteering a rewarding experience. The need is great — just make sure you’re ready to meet that need.

Volunteer Construction Strengthens Communities

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Habitat for Humanity, as it’s probably the largest and most famous volunteer construction organization on the planet. There may even be a chance that you know Jimmy Carter more for his work with this organization than for his time as president. Yes, he actually was president of the United States once upon a time.

There are a lot of local Habitat affiliates around the world. In fact, Habitat is involved in volunteer projects in all 50 states and in more than 70 countries. That’s an impressive accomplishment given their grassroots beginning on a small community farm in Georgia.

The effects of Habitat’s work can be felt just about everywhere — whether they’re satisfying an immediate need after Hurricane Florence or providing the dream of home ownership to low-income families.

Veronica Carter, member of the Brunswick County Habitat in North Carolina, says the work they’re doing in the wake of Hurricane Florence is rudimentary but necessary.

“We’ll go in, and provide them with a kitchen, with a bath, and with a living area and a sleeping area,” says Carter. “We’re not making pretty, we’re not making it full, but at least it will be something where they can actually come back to their home.”

In Baton Rouge, LA, it’s not a matter of disaster relief but of helping people achieve their dream of homeownership. According to Megan Culp, family services director for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge, families are expected to invest sweat equity into their home-building project.

“We’re not an emergency housing program,” says Culp. “It really is about families that are willing to commit a lot of time and energy to their dream, then we’ll commit to their dream as well.”

Culp says all the families receiving homes are on tight budgets. The more maintenance and repair work they can do themselves, the better off they’ll be long term. Habitat’s job, beyond building their home, is to make certain they’re prepared for what comes after they move in.

“I think they’re probably better-prepared homeowners than most people that buy houses because they will have done a lot more,” says Culp. “They’re also invested in their home and invested in their community.”

Volunteer Construction Is More Than Home-Building

Volunteer construction can include numerous projects people may not be aware of, from building community wells in developing countries to the construction of infrastructure, such as seal-coating asphalt. While the projects may vary, the one thing that remains the same is the need.

If you’re interested in volunteering in a construction project, make sure you do your homework and consider the time and energy requirements it will entail. Volunteer work can often be rewarding, but it’s still work.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, check out their volunteer resources page. If you’re interested in other volunteer construction projects, check out this fantastic resource on the top 10 volunteer construction projects around the world.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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