My volunteer vacation

By Joanne Shuttleworth, Guelph Mercury reporter and Habitat for Humanity volunteer




Joanne Shuttleworth cuts insulation on the worksite.


This summer, I took off eight consecutive Wednesdays and spent those days at 439 York Road here in Guelph, Ontario, building a home through Habitat Wellington County’s Women Build. While I can’t say building a house is as relaxing as floating on a lake, it’s been rejuvenating nonetheless.

A project like this has a lot of appeal for me. As a homeowner, it helps to know how to do minor repairs, and through building this home, I’ve had plenty of practice with hammers and nails and … nail removers. I also better understand the concepts of level, square and plumb — and how to achieve each of them.

Over my eight weeks, I learned how to install ledger boards, joists and subfloor. I now know the thrill of putting up an exterior wall and just how high those roof trusses really are. I might try building a shed or installing hardwood floors in my own home one day. I’m not afraid of power tools any more.

I also know I’ve had some lucky breaks in my life, and it was time to deposit some goodwill in the karma bank again. A family will get a home and an affordable mortgage through this project. And this family was the motivation for all involved. I’m delighted to be able to help.

My last day fell during Habitat’s “Bring a Friend” week, so I brought one of my daughters and we worked together installing siding on the back of the house. It was a great mother-daughter day and a fine way to wrap up my vacation. Like camp, only I got to sleep in my own bed.

I’m still hoping for some R&R, and floating on a lake still sounds refreshing. But I’ve never had a vacation that’s been as fulfilling.