Tammy Aguilar -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Tammy Aguilar

 

Delta flight attendant Tammy Aguilar was one of 11 Delta volunteers to build during the 2011 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Léogâne, Haiti, Nov. 6-11, 2011.

   


Delta flight attendant Tammy Aguilar’s face glowed with perspiration as she used a power drill on a new Habitat for Humanity house. The temperature was in the low 90s, the heat index well above that, and the sun in the Haitian sky shone down brutally on the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project volunteers.

“The best thing about the Carter Work Project is you have living proof that you’ve been there, you’ve made a difference, you’ve helped these families,” she said.

For five days, Nov. 6-11, Aguilar was part of the 11-member Delta Air Lines team at Habitat for Humanity International’s most high-profile annual build. More than 400 volunteers built 100 houses in a former sugar cane field outside the city of Léogâne, Haiti, the epicenter of the devastating 2010 earthquake that left hundreds of thousands of Haitians homeless.

Building alongside President Carter was a particular thrill. “Jimmy Carter is a huge, huge hero of mine,” she said, “probably my number one hero. The work he’s done with his life - the books he’s written, his humanitarian work - is so inspiring.”

Aguilar, 53, did not wait for Delta to select its 10-person Carter Work Project team, part of its partnership with Habitat for Humanity that included the airline donating two huge charter planes to fly all of the volunteers from Atlanta, Georgia, to Haiti and back.

Starting in June, she raised the funds for her trip herself, with a lot of help from her flight attendant friends in Seattle, Washington, where she is based. Habitat asked each Carter Work Project volunteer to raise $5,000, much of which will go to build still more homes in Haiti. Aguilar’s co-workers pitched in with everything from a wine-tasting to a garage sale to raise the money.

Delta made her the 11th member of the team, and she was delighted she was able to build with her co-workers, who developed a reputation at the worksite for being one of the most productive building crews. Her team was also selected to spend one day working on the house the Carters themselves were building --a singular honor on a Carter Work Project, joining a crew that included country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Aguilar had been to Haiti before, in February, when she and a group of Delta flight attendant friends raised money for Haitian orphanages and flew down to help. “I knew then I would be coming back to Haiti sometime,” she said.

She expected rough living and working conditions on the Habitat trip, and got them. All the volunteers slept on cots in tents at a nearby campsite where they kept a wary eye out for spiders, and took only cold showers, which didn’t seem so bad after a day in the tropical heat.

She said she wished her husband, Mark Aguilar, a firefighter in Bellevue, Washington, could have seen her building a house from scratch. “He’s very handy and has all the skills. So I tend to hang back at home. Here I’m doing everything he’s always done for me,” she said proudly. They have two children: Lucas, 24; and Savanna, 20.

Raised a “military brat,” Aguilar grew up mainly in Alaska. She was a flight attendant for Wien Air Alaska and Northwest Airlines, and then became a Delta flight attendant after the airlines merged in 2008. She started building for Habitat for Humanity in 2005, and has also done a Global Village build in Nepal.

As the week wound down and the houses looked better, Aguilar was already looking ahead to next year. The Carter Work Project will return to Léogâne, Haiti, in 2012, and she hopes to come back next year, and bring along her daughter Savanna.