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Joanie Hopkins

I am your friendly, mischievous Disaster Corps volunteer, and I have had the privilege of being a Habitat for Humanity team leader for several years now. My very first trip was to Hamilton, New Zealand. What a wonderful experience. I was awarded a certificate for “most accurate measurer.” You know what they say: measure twice and cut once. I can do just that. Now that I had my feet wet, I continued on with a Sri Lanka build. This one was very special. You see, we are used to all the tools and facilities. Well, did you know that if you have at least one Ph.D., you could be qualified to dig latrines? Our groups of volunteers were all highly professional and our ability to use rudimentary tools was challenged. I am sure each of us took much more away than what we gave. Then I went on to Mongolia where it was really difficult to communicate with our families and yet the language of love and caring as always prevailed.

When our country was so devastated by Katrina, it was a privilege to go and help our compatriots in despair. Empathy was just not enough. As we were literally gutting people’s homes and removing masses of debris, some homeowners were uncomfortable with strangers wading through their belongings. Put yourself in their shoes. Yet once again, caring and doing all we could to possibly save what little we could helped those devastated homeowners accept our love for them and empathy for what they were going through.

Someone somewhere offered my name up for membership in the elite Disaster Corps. Yes, off to Metairie I went and met many wonderful people. Soon thereafter I was sent to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where in 104F weather we rebuilt homes which had been reduced to rubble. I learned a lot there as safe rooms were included in these homes, something that was foreign to me. The volunteers that came to help every week were wonderful folks from all over the country. It just makes you so proud to work alongside a young marine on leave that spent his leave going the extra mile for his countrymen. More recently, I was in Southern New Jersey with an unbelievable team of volunteers. They had the most positive, “we can do this” attitudes even though they had never worked with insulation or sheet rock, and were rocking it! If you guys read this, you know who you are. We enjoyed our homeowners, enjoyed each other and oh boy, we got the job done.

What is it about Disaster Corps or volunteering that is so special? Well my friends, it is making new friendships, learning new skills and most of all knowing that you did something for someone who could not do it for themselves. Yes, they are grateful but not as grateful as I am for having met these wonderful folks and having them allow me to help them.

So who am I? Mischief and “can do” are my middle names. I had been brought up in boarding school which gives me the ground work for mischief, and “can do” probably stems from the same place. How can you get out of the dorm without being seen if not by tying sheets together and climbing out of the window? Resourcefulness is a must when volunteering too. That brings me and my family: I have been blessed with one daughter who teaches disabled children and joined me on a couple of trips. I was a teacher many moons ago too. I also have two sons who have families now and six wonderful grandchildren.

I hope and pray that you will join in God’s calling to do his work, no matter what your skills. All you need is a loving heart the rest is learned. I look forward to more Disaster Corps assignments and hopefully meeting you there.