Empowering Women To Make A Difference

Posted by Lauren
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By Patti Post, Women Build Week Crew Leader

Women Build is all about helping hands and making a difference… in the lives of the Habitat homeowners and the volunteers who participate.

This year will be my 10th or 11th Women Build.  I can’t stop coming because it means so much to me.  Women can make a difference, and they can make it on their own terms.  I love it because each time, I get to watch women leave walking a little taller at the end of the day, realizing what they can do.

Women Build started for me 10 years ago with a tiny ad in the newspaper titled “Women Build Interest Meeting”.  I’d had this idea of Habitat in the back of my mind as something worthwhile that I wanted to look into.  I showed up to the meeting at the Habitat office, and I was one of 125 women present!  I looked around at the other women and thought “This is it.  I want to be a part of this.”

I’ve been part of numerous construction efforts through Habitat, through affiliates all over the country.  I’ve built in Wisconsin, Florida, in Mississippi after Katrina hit, and I’ll be building in Tennessee in May.  I’ve been involved in reconstructing townhomes as well as new construction.  Through these experiences, I learned how to lead a crew and help volunteers have a good experience.

I think the challenge of Women Build is that many women are so afraid that they can’t do anything! Being a part of the construction shows these women first that all jobs are equally important to the construction efforts – whether that’s sweeping the floor, scrubbing out a tub, or nailing a post.  Second, it empowers them to know that they can do the kind of tasks they might shy away from at first – like using the power tools.  The awesome thing about this event is that safety is prime.  While it’s definitely a construction site, it is a good way for women to learn construction skills in a safe environment.  This event is a week where we can help women to know that we’ll keep them safe and they WILL succeed!

My favorite Women Build memory is from a build here in the Norristown area, where I was building with a homeowner who was afraid to go up a ladder.  I encouraged her throughout the day as she overcame her doubt, and by the end of the day, she was dusting the ceiling!  Not only was she empowered to complete the work of that day, but I knew that going forward, conquering that fear would empower her to hang curtains later on in homeownership.  That’s what Women Build Week is all about.

Women Build has given me countless memories, and has given me two women who are now like sisters to me.  It is about women from all walks of life coming out to learn together as well as to be a part of giving to the community.  There will always be someone who needs a home, so the opportunity is always there to give back.  The best part of this experience is that you get to help someone help themselves.  No matter what stage of construction you helped in during Women Build, the best part is witnessing the home dedication at the end.  The look on the homeowner’s face as they turn the key, it’s like a grateful and empowered “I made it!”  It’s almost indescribable.