If you build it, volunteers will come

April 12, 2010, 12:53 a.m.
If you build it, volunteers will come
(E. BLAIR LAING/The Stanford Daily)

Early Friday morning, a Stanford Habitat for Humanity executive greeted student volunteers with Izzy’s bagels at the Tresidder bollards. The executive, Keren Mikva ’12, greeted me by name.

“I look people up ahead of time so that way I can recognize them if they are wandering around the parking lot,” Mikva said. “Or if they don’t show up and I see them again, I can call them on it.”

Stanford Habitat for Humanity relies on volunteers from the general student body and getting enough people for a particular build is sometimes difficult. No shows are a constant problem, and Friday was no exception.

Mikva attempted to call one last student who had signed up, but she never answered, so the four of us–Lizzy Collins ’13, Mario Vazquez ’13, Jesus Mora ’13 and myself–all climbed into Mikva’s car and we hit the road.

On the car ride over, Mikva filled us in on what we’d be doing later at the build and gave us a little history about Habitat for Humanity. We would be working with Habitat Silicon Valley and Habitat Greater San Francisco, two partners of Habitat for Humanity, on one of the homes in a six house renovation project in Menlo Park. Mikva explained that in the fall, Stanford Habitat for Humanity focuses on their charity event, the Home Run, to raise money for their partner groups.

“This year we raised about $14,000,” Mikva said. “And lately, we’ve been doing about three to four builds per month. It really depends on when they can give us builds.”

After a short drive we arrived at the house where three Habitat workers met us and decided that with such a small group, we should actually work on a different house nearby. We then filled out release forms and donned hard hats, and the workers told us a little bit about Habitat’s international project.

Then came the safety instruction, which the workers took very seriously.

“Even though these look like homes, they are not yet homes, they are construction sites,” said Leena, one of the workers. “It is very important that you be careful.”

After our orientation, Leena took the five of us to another house just around the corner, where we were finally put to work. Most of the time we were priming the exterior for its final paint, but some volunteers also worked on scraping old paint, painting the interior, and weed whacking. Students worked on their own or in groups, and most of the time was spent in idle chat.

“I’m always looking for volunteer opportunities,” Collins said, “but with my schedule it is always really hard. I got an e-mail, and I didn’t have class or practice until the afternoon. I have wanted to do Habitat for Humanity for the last couple of years, and I finally got my opportunity.”

Mora had also never participated with Habitat, but also devotes much of his time to philanthropy.

“I heard a lot about [Habitat] in high school, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I jumped at the opportunity.”

Vazquez, on the other hand, was quite familiar with construction sites, having worked on numerous homes during high school.

“I used to help build houses back home in Mexico, with a local group,” Vazquez said. “I went to a Catholic school so they raised me to do a lot of community service and I like it, it makes me feel good.”

After a few hours of working in the sun–it was seventy and sunny–we were all hungry and ready to head home. After hours of working and talking together, about school and life and our families, the ride back to campus was filled with easy conversation and even light mocking<\p>–<\p>we were all covered in white paint and looked pretty ridiculous.

“I really enjoyed it, and I’ll make sure to come back soon,” Mora said.

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