Post-pandemic Call to Community: Volunteering to Build Hope
Organization: Habitat for Humanity, Tucson: https://www.habitattucson.org/
Location: Tucson, AZ (USA)
We are still collectively emerging from the pandemic and many of us feel a sense of uncertainty… an unsettling. The ways of life we took for granted were shaken and we are struggling collectively to adapt to new patterns of work (where, when, how), community (sharing public space such as shopping & restaurants), family (holidays, celebrations, trips), and even a realignment of what we want for our lives and our families. In a way, we have been shaken awake from a life we may not have questioned enough. And we are not yet settled into what will be.
Adding to our sense of vulnerability are big-world challenges such as concern about the economy and inflation, the war in Ukraine, new rounds of COVID, seasonal flu. There may sense we have lost the control we thought we had over our lives and feel more vulnerable to the world’s ills.
But that’s not the full story of our collective experience. It does not reflect what we are capable of building as we emerge post-pandemic.
We need to rebuild and reclaim our agency over our lives. To work through the trauma of the past few years which has left us anxious.
We can do this by focusing on what is ours to do in the moment. We can ask ourselves, what is right in front of us, in the smaller spaces of life? Where can we have impact in our families? Our work? Our communities?
I’m not talking about anything big or splashy. There is magic in the subtle and the ordinary. We just need to tap into that energy. One such avenue is volunteering.
Volunteering is personally empowering and socially productive. Spending even a short amount of time surrounded with people who are dedicated to bettering the world, and participating with others in community to make a difference for others, strengthens our hope muscles and lessens our anxiety. It also boost our connection to others. We are part of a whole.
Volunteering even just one time, for a few hours, can give you a mental and emotional boost, while also helping members of the community in need. There is magic in working together with others focused on kindness…. and in what happens when you do that. It’s energizing.
It’s also a conscious choice to act, so it builds confidence and agency. The word volunteer comes from the Latin “voluntaries” meaning “willing or of one’s own choice.” Volunteering is a conscious decision to act. You choose to make the effort to volunteer. This is empowering!
Even when I travel, I look for an organization where I can volunteer. It is one of the best ways to get to know the local community. Instead of remaining at a tourist level, it is exciting to dig deeper and be part of something that sustains the local people.
Some types of organizations are better suited for one-time visitors. Habitat for Humanity is a great choice! They have chapters in every US State and 70 countries around the world. Habitat focuses on building or repairing homes for low-income families and they need regular teams of volunteers for a variety of projects.
My husband and I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to visit his father over Thanksgiving weekend, and I spent one day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Tucson’s “A Brush With Kindness” division.
A Brush with Kindness partners with low-income residents who struggle to maintain the exterior of their homes, allowing them to reclaim their homes with pride and dignity.
They help with outside painting, system repairs to electrical and heating, tree trimming and removal, repairs on roofing, siding, doors, and windows.
On this particular day we were there to install fences and gutters.
Tucson ended up experiencing an unusual day of rain so we did not get to do the gutters, so we focused on installing the fencing.
I was one of about 10 volunteers that day. I met some inspiring people – among them a female long-haul truck driver who shared interesting stories of life on the road, a retired school principal who traveled the world on her bicycle and shared wonderful stories of towns visited around the world, and a seminary student getting ready to embark on the next phase of his journey.
Our team was across all ages – from college students to retirees. Most were local so I learned a lot about the local culture, local favorite hidden restaurants and activities, and about local, little-known hiking spots. Things I may never have learned had I remained in “tourist” mode and not volunteered for the day.
I have volunteered with several Habitat for Humanity chapters in a handful of States and love the organization. The site leaders are always very helpful, ensure you are properly trained and following safety protocols, and also ensure you are engaged and busy. It is always a wonderful experience!
Habitat for Humanity Tucson builds about 15 – 25 houses a year. Applicants undergo an application process where they are approved based on their income, willingness to partner to build the house (sweat equity) and need.
Families have to put in 200 hours of sweat-equity per adult per home. The typical home is about 1,200 sq ft, and is often one story, with 3 bedrooms and 1 ½ bathrooms. They will vary from that depending on location/need.
Volunteer activities vary based on needs of the day but can be tailored to each participant’s abilities so everyone has something meaningful to do. This makes it great for families (parents and adult children, siblings, etc.) and all different ages (teens through retirees). Please note – there are minimum age requirements so check your local Habitat for details.
Interested in finding a Habitat for Humanity near you so you can volunteer?
Check out https://www.habitat.org/ and you can search by your State.
Interested in learning more about Habitat for Humanity Tucson and their Brush with Kindness division? Check out: https://www.habitattucson.org/
Thank you for journeying with me! XO – Penny