Going into my junior year of college, I felt it was time to start finding experience in my work that would benefit my future. Helping others is my passion and I loved the Habitat model of giving hand-ups, not just hand-outs, so I decided to reach out to Habitat and see if they could benefit from my help. I was accepted on as a Family Services Intern to work with Andrea Ward.
I spent the first part of the summer learning all the ins and outs of Habitat, specifically the volunteer and partner family processes. On site I would help Andrea fulfill her duties as site manager, doing classic intern jobs like carrying water and ice and making coffee for the core crew! It was a rewarding experience working alongside the partner families, talking and getting to know them better as we helped build a house for another deserving partner family. Watching the building of the houses was an inspiring experience. Normally when you finish a project as big as building a house, you would expect to see a final celebration party, for everyone to take a break and marvel at their accomplishments. But when Habitat dedicates a house, they can do that for a few minutes, but it is back to work right away, possibly working on two or three other houses. The staff, the volunteer core crew, and other volunteers are constantly coming and working on whatever project needs to be done that day. The work is constant, always moving to give as many deserving people homes as possible. That is a truly inspiring work environment.
In the office I was able to assist Andrea in logging hours for volunteers and tracking the hours of the partner families. A large chunk of my office time was spent assisting Jeanne Mesker in the pre-application process. I contacted people who would fill out online interest forms, call the office, or stop by and leave their information. On the phone I would explain how the application meeting worked and then go over some of their information to make sure they were not wasting their time by coming to the meeting. It was a difficult job, but at times gratifying. It was difficult when you could never get a hold of someone, wondering if they were someone who could truly use our help; or when you had to tell someone that their application would not be approved because of income. But, it could also be exciting to talk to someone who was so excited about getting started with the process. You could often here in their voice their genuine nature and know just from talking to them that they would be excellent partner families. Being able to hear that potential success and be a part of the future continuation of Habitat after I am long gone was an exciting endeavor.
My last project at Habitat was easily the best part of my time here. As Andrea and I talked one day about the support we felt was missing from our program, she mentioned how she wished she had time to create a mentor program. Right then I knew that that project was why I was at Habitat. So, I made it my job to create that program. I did lots of research through Habitat files, My Habitat, the national resources, and documents from other affiliates. Through everything I had found I was able to put together an advocate manual with a rundown of our new program. I then spent time contacting people in the community that I thought would be good additions to our committee or would make good advocates. I got the opportunity to go to a Habitat Homeowners meeting that was held for the Homeowners build. Many of the homeowners gave feedback on our program and some even joined to be advocates. We had our first meeting at the beginning of August and it was a great success. I leave now knowing that we have a committee full of dedicated people and several advocates to begin supporting our partner families to better lives. The impact this program could have on our partner families gives me so much hope for the future of all of our families and the future of Habitat for Humanity of Evansville.
I learned so much this summer, from new construction skills, to how to be a diplomatic leader, to finding out how much I could accomplish when my heart is involved. I look forward to using my new knowledge in my future actions and thank everyone at Habitat for giving me this wonderful opportunity.