If you volunteer for Habitat — particularly for an entire week — you should not kid yourself that you’re doing a nice little service project. If you want to do something that helps someone else and feels good, stop and think about what you’re getting into first; maybe tutoring or handing out sandwiches is a better choice for you.
A Habitat build is a construction site, and while most of the workers are not stereotypical construction workers, the work is still the same, and the dangers are the same (if not greater, since there are lots of rookies).
At the beginning of each day, the Site Supervisor is supposed to give a safety talk. It varies in length and scope, but the one thing that is always emphasized is: don’t leave anything on the top of a ladder. You or someone else may try to move the ladder and then you’ll have something come crashing down on your head.
There’s a very good reason why they make all volunteers sign a waiver.
Over the course of the week in Hattiesburg, the power tools that Dave and I used between the two of us included a nail gun, cordless drill, compound mitre saw, circular saw, Sawzall, and a .22 caliber ramset; these are not toys. (They are very fun, though, for those who know what they’re for.) We did not, alas, get to drive any of the construction vehicles (also not toys!) though I did get to drive the Habitat Nissan Tundra.
Building a home is very physical work, and it can be very repetitive. One of our teammates became the designated “cutter”, which meant that she was using the circular saw to cut boards pretty much the entire week. By Friday afternoon, she was VERY tired of sawing.
Even stuff that doesn’t require power tools or hammering can be hard on the muscles. Lifting 5-gallon cans of paint, 12-foot pieces of lumber, doors and windows, and even an 8-foot-tall roll of house wrap gets to be a lot. I and my paint crew tired very quickly of craning our necks using a long-handled roller to paint ceilings for two days.
The good part is, at the end of the day when you’re tired, your muscles are sore, and your fingers have splinters and bruises from being struck with a hammer more than a few times, you can stop and look at what you built. Even better, when volunteering with Habitat, is knowing that eventually the structure you’re working on will be a home for someone who may never have had one.
Of course, it was built by volunteers; hopefully it will stand up. *smile*