First Quarter Reflections - Our AmeriCorps Members Share Their Stories

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

In the first quarter of our AmeriCorps members journeys they have learned a lot, gained a lot, and have been working very hard with our organization.  Each quarter, as a part of their membership with AmeriCorps, they must complete a report of all of the projects, and activities that they have been working on, along with their trainings, and every day work.  As their Host Site Manager, it has been a pleasure, thus far, to work with them and I am excited to see what the rest of their service term brings!  This quarter was their first reporting term, and they have all taken the chance to reflect on their work so far!  Here’s what they have been up to so far:

 

Kelcey Silver - When Megan, my supervisor, told me that I was going to be working with the children in Almost Home, I was excited. I have worked with children most of my life and I really enjoy it. Right away I started planning fun, engaging, creative programming that I thought the kids could learn from and might also spark a new interest. Flash forward a few weeks and I found myself in a room full of kids ages 8 months to 12 years, feeling completely overwhelmed. It was the first time I was unable to control a group of children and get them to complete an activity. I had certainly not expected to feel this way. For the next week I decided to find more volunteers that could support me, create even more structured activities, and create class rules for the children to follow. I knew that this class was an opportunity for me to reach these kids and introduce them to topics, ideas, and passions that they may not otherwise have a chance to learn about, so I had to give it my all. Now, after two months and classes twice a week, the class is almost complete. I have been able to form really great relationships with all of the children and hone in on what inspires and interests each of them. For example, Xavier excels in every art activity we do, and I have talked with him about a career in art. Samad showed great promise and interest in engineering through building structures with marshmallows and toothpicks. And, Temprince is a natural leader, shown through her skills in a puzzle & drawing team activity. Although my Almost Home childcare experience started off on a rocky start, I am ending this class session on a very high note. The kids in the class have left a lasting impression on me, and I hope I have on them as well! 

Paul Rihn - During the quarter ended September 30, 2017, I experienced my proudest moments in 20 years as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and in more than a year as an AmeriCorps member serving HFH of Montgomery and Delaware Counties, Pa. The event was the dedication of three newly-constructed Habitat homes on Green Street in Bridgeport, Pa. on August 25, 2017. I was so proud because I was privileged to participate in the construction of these homes that have enabled three families and 12 family members, including six children, to realize their dream of home ownership. The Girgis family is from Egypt and has been unable to afford home ownership until they embraced the Habitat for Humanity Home-Buying Program. Malak and Miriam faithfully completed Habitat's Almost Home financial empowerment program. They have four children - Marina (8), Joyce (6), Shenouda (3) and Parsenia, just weeks old. Malak and Miriam are so pleased that they will be able to raise their children in a stable neighborhood and that their children will be able to attend school just a block or so from their new home. Hany and Mazouz Sadik-Tawfik, also from Egypt, have been unable to afford a home of their own during their eight years in America because they have been limited to only entry level positions in the retail and food industries. After completing the Habitat's Almost Home and home-buying process, Hany and Mazouz have achieved their dream of owning their own home and can now pursue their goal of starting a family. Dustin Gray is a permanently-disabled, former United States Marine who served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan. Owning a Habitat home provides Dustin and his wife, Danielle, the safe and stable environment needed for Dustin's recovery and for their children, Cameron (9), and Shane (5), to thrive. I am extremely proud to have worked side-by-side with Malak, Hany and Dustin on this project as they completed their "sweat equity" hours. They were always eager to accept any task given to them and all have an excellent work ethic. Hany exceeded the number of hours needed to fulfill the required hours and volunteered on our affiliate's "Rock the Block" event a short time after the dedication. Dustin's background in home improvement served him well throughout the whole project. I love the mission of HFH of providing decent, affordable housing for the disadvantaged and the mission of Americorps of improving communities in America. I also cherish the opportunity to engage in all phases of construction work while interacting with partner families, corporate and institutional volunteers, our 20 faithful regular volunteers and HFH staff. Being a small part of the process by which families are able achieve their dreams of home ownership is extremely fulfilling. 

Paige Gardner - My Great Story comes from the first time I had an opportunity to really spend the day interacting with volunteers, and that was Rock the Block almost a full month after I started. Until then, I spent a lot of my days emailing and calling the general community to promote this event and try to start partnerships, but it is entirely different to actually be out at an event and talk to the families of the community and the volunteers that come out. It was wonderful to see everyone come together - on a Saturday morning nonetheless, when they could really be doing anything - and work to help clean, beautify, and better the neighborhood. My favorite memory was watching two young boys who live on the street helping fix the fence that surrounded the playground. These two older men decided to teach the young boys how to use a hammer, and patiently stood with them demonstrating and assisting as the boys helped fix the fence. The boys were happy to be working and felt important, and I appreciated the older volunteers who were so patient, kind, and inviting. Overall the day was wonderful and every interaction I had was positive. It was amazing to see what one Saturday morning can do, and what good people who can achieve when they come together.

Cole Kedzierski - When I decided to join Americorps and work for Habitat for Humanity I was aware that I would be engaging with work that would help impact peoples' lives. I was excited to get to work and start learning about home repair and construction, and I still am. As a part of the construction team I work on different types of projects. At times I've worked on new construction, or rehab construction of houses, and other times I work on critical home repairs. During new construction and rehab construction, you can be somewhat more removed at times from the personable impact of what your work is doing for the people who will come to live in that house. A lot work and time goes into rehabbing a house before you get to see who will live there, and understand what this work will mean for a family that might be struggling. Critical home repair is different in that way; each time I worked on a critical home repair I often met a family who has their own challenges to maintaining their home. At one home, I spent a little over a week working on several repairs and aspects of a small home in Pottstown for critical home repair. A family of four lived there, a couple in their mid thirties with a ten year old daughter, and a newborn girl just two weeks old. The home needed work on an exterior brick wall. Covering the brick was a layer of stucco, a kind of mortar applied to the outside of a brick wall to help secure deteriorating bricks. The stucco was cracked and separating from the brick in several places up and down the wall. Behind the stucco, many crumbling bricks held in loosely by old mortar had to be removed, replaced and covered with a new layer of stucco. In the basement, water leaking in from the walls had caused cracking and chipping of the cement wall. In the front of the home, a section of sidewalk was cracked, and pushed up by a big tree root about four inches that had grown under it. I did not know this, but residents living in front of a public sidewalk have a responsibility to maintain it. This property needed a lot a work done to keep it from deteriorating further, and the family simply could not afford it. My co-workers and I repaired the brick wall's most deteriorated spaces. We also patched the chipped cement in the basement, and tore up the badly cracked section of sidewalk, pouring in cement to make the section brand new. The married couple of the family was humble, accommodating, and immensely appreciative. Each day the mother of the family made hash browns, and some kind of lunch, eager and happy to offer whatever refreshments they had. During our lunch break sometimes she sat and talked with us. One afternoon she laughed telling us how her husband was able to get a mortgage for the house with no job and blue hair. She said, "you think you know everything you need to about buying houses when you're 22". The husband worked all day, and if we were still working while he got home, he changed and came straight out to help us work. They were a gracious family and seemed very happy. The mother frequently commented on how lucky their family was for all that they had. I was happy the be able to work on this project for a family who seemed not to take anything for granted. I felt that the work we did there benefited a family who otherwise might have faced serious financial challenges if that wall had been allowed to continue to deteriorate. I thought about their newborn girl being able to be a little less cautious on the now more safe sidewalk as she learns to walk and run around outside. I was happy that the work we did there was appreciated by a gracious family who otherwise could not have afforded the repairs to their home. 

 

A huge thank you to all of our AmeriCorps members currently serving, and if you’re interested in joining AmeriCorps with Habitat MontDelco in the future, please reach out to Cara Przybylowicz at cara@habitatmontdelco.org.