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Volunteers:

Lessons from the Build Site

Volunteers gather rocks to build the foundation of a Habitat house in Mexico.

By Heather Wilkinson

For students Lorena Mu´┐Żoz and Ernesto Martinez, getting involved with Habitat for Humanity started out as a way to fulfill a volunteer work requirement at their schools. However, their work with Habitat has developed into something much more — it has become an important part of their lives and has taught them valuable lessons. Both students are part of a youth work team that is helping to build three houses in an impoverished community in Morelos, Mexico.

Lorena’s first experience with Habitat was working with an indigenous community in the Mexican state of Chiapas. As a Habitat volunteer and architecture student, she had the opportunity to contribute to the design of a new type of Habitat house that would be compatible with the area’s natural environment. “It was a great experience for both my professional and personal development,” she says. She adds that her experience as part of a construction crew has made her more understanding and appreciative of the physical work that goes into building a house.

Ernesto began volunteering with Habitat as part of a social service class offered through his high school. Although Ernesto has worked as a volunteer with several organizations, his service with Habitat has been especially memorable. “Working with Habitat involves both physical and emotional labor — from carrying a bag of cement to making sure that you have a smile on your face for the construction supervisor or for the children who are watching you work. It is an opportunity to see the world from another perspective and to do something productive.”

Although they are not paid for their work, both students agree that they are compensated in other ways. “The best pay is the thanks from the people we have reached and helped,” says Ernesto. Lorena agrees: “My experience with Habitat has been about building houses and communities. Looking at the brick you just laid and knowing that a family has a roof over their heads because you helped them — that is a beautiful thing.”

Volunteers from around the world will follow in Lorena and Ernesto’s footsteps as they gather in Mexico this October to participate in the 2004 Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP). This year’s JCWP will take place from October 24–October 29 in the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz with the goal of building 150 houses.








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