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Repairing sidewalks and painting numbers, with an international flair

By Calli Speakman

Calli Speakman (right) and Julia Rao of Habitat Guatemala help repair sidewalks in Pensacola. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Calli Speakman

The Pensacola Build-a-Thon is well underway! We have about 85 members from all over the East Coast working very hard in the Florida heat. It’s great to be back where my AmeriCorps experience began and to see how far Pensacola Habitat has come. I especially love seeing the revitalization work they are doing.

This Build-a-Thon is very different than a typical one, because there is no new construction taking place. All the projects are rehabilitations and community improvements. For example, one of the projects is repairing sidewalks throughout the neighborhood.

On Monday, I worked with the sidewalk team. That was particularly special because I got to work alongside Julia Rao and Jamil Barton, staff members from Habitat Guatemala. They were in Pensacola visiting the affiliate, and wanted to pitch in on the Build-a-Thon. Pensacola and Habitat Guatemala are Habitat Tithe partners, and members of the Pensacola team visit Guatemala each year for a build.

During our lunch break on Monday, Julia and Jamil talked about Habitat Guatemala and inspired the members to get involved in Habitat’s international work.

AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon members spray-paint address numbers on the curbs of Pensacola neighborhoods to make homes more identifiable or emergency responders. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Calli Speakman

Another community project included painting house numbers on the curb. When the affiliate asked the community residents what they would like to see improved in the neighborhood, they said it would really be helpful to have house numbers on the curbs so emergency vehicles could better identify addresses. It’s a simple but important chore.

On Tuesday, I made the rounds with the street numbers crew. They told me that while the task was very simple, they enjoyed being out in the neighborhood and talking with the residents. One of the street numbers they painted just happened to be at the affiliate’s AmeriCorps house, where I lived when I served with them.

While these projects might not be typical Habitat projects, it’s wonderful to see that the members are really embracing the affiliate. I also hope the AmeriCorps members’ hard work will inspire residents and get them excited about being involved in the revitalization work happening in their neighborhood.

Calli Speakman is a campus chapter associate for Habitat for Humanity International.