Global Volunteers help Habitat

MANCHESTER - Twelve people, from different places and different backgrounds, all came together in Manchester last week to work on the Habitat for Humanity projects on Jennifer Lane.

"They took a week out of their busy lives, and paid the expenses to be contributors to Habitat for Humanity," said Dick Malley of the Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity.

The 12 volunteers were helping as a part of Global Village, a program through Habitat that partners people with projects anywhere from the next state over to halfway across the world.

"We work with 90 to 100 countries," said Stan Duda, Team Leader for this Global Village trip. "We have an affiliate in each country... we take teams to these countries and they usually work for one to two weeks... they pay a team fee for lodging, food, transportation... and they're getting here on their own."

Duda explained that Habitat provides a secure way to visit a foreign country, with the ability to enact change for good in the process.

"They're a caring and giving team," he said. "They're people who feel blessed and want to give something back."

Those who are interested in volunteering are encouraged to apply through Habitat's website, and they are directed to an application and a list of locations that are accepting Global Village volunteers. Team leaders are given the list of volunteers interested in their area, and they begin the interview process.

"Over 1,000 people we interviewed for this location," explained Duda. "We narrowed it down to 11."

Minors are not able to travel outside the country for Global Village, but they are encouraged to apply for builds in other states, or even in their own state.

In this group, Malley explained that there were volunteers from as far away as California, and from as close as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and even some from around Vermont.

However, two volunteers really stacked up their flyer miles coming all the way from Germany to help build.

"They take good care of us... they won't let us starve," said Nicholas Schumacher, referring to the amount of donated food to the volunteers from around the community. "They welcomed us."

Malley explained that breakfast is budgeted into their trip from Habitat, but lunch and dinner are not. However, each meal had been provided by a member of the community each night that the team was working.

Last Monday night, Martha Thompson organized dinner for the team at the First Baptist Church in Manchester. To thank her for the meal, the team offered to spend their otherwise free time Saturday morning helping her to move firewood on her property on Jennifer Lane.

Each volunteer had a different background, and some had never even picked up a power tool before. However, Duda explained that they were all eager to help and had their own goals they were hoping to achieve through Habitat.

"One wants to build a Habitat home in every state... one wants to do one a year... an one took a six year break but missed it so much he came back," said Duda.

This is far from being Duda's first Habitat project; Jennifer Lane marks his 10th build, and his second in the US, the other taking place in Alaska. He has also traveled to Africa and Asia, and is currently putting together a team to travel to Sri Lanka in January.

Also working on the house was future owner Shannon Gordon. He explained that he was putting in what Habitat calls "sweat equity," where depending on the size of the family and the size of the house he is required to spend a certain amount of time helping with the construction. Gordon said that whatever the time might be, he's going to "work until it's done."

Gordon and his wife Lori will be moving into the completed house with their five children - Bailey, aged 11, Benjamin, 10, Hayden, 10, Alexa, six, and Camden, two.

"We're very excited to be a part of the community up here," Gordon said. "There is only one way in [to Jennifer Lane], so it's very safe for the kids...we're also excited to get them into the school system."

Gordon was astonished with the amount of work that the community was willing to put into his home.

"There has been a tremendous amount of work from the community... people I have never met have made me a part of their family," he said. "I'm proud of the community, and the people within the community that make a difference."

Gordon said that he was surprised that his family was chosen to live in the Habitat home.

"It started with me making a phone call... I left my number on their answering machine... that was in February, and by March we were told we were chosen," he said. "I encourage more people to call them, because you never know what will happen."

Malley explained that the house is more than just "a place for the next generation to call home;" the house is also built to high standards of energy efficiency, as they have been working with Efficiency VT.

"It is safe, affordable, and sufficient," said Malley. "We make it affordable to heat and maintain... there are EnergyStar appliances... LED lighting... and proper insulation."

"We hope that they'll go home... wherever that may be... and spread the message and bring more volunteers," said Malley.

Other than the two houses in the works, Habitat is also working to improve Jennifer Lane as a street. Currently, they are laying the final piece of pipe to improve both the water to the Habitat homes as well as the pre-existing, non-Habitat homes. They have also added four new fire hydrants that will be hooked up to the new pipelines.

When the road work is finished, the road will see new paving as well. Both the water and paving will be paid for by Habitat for Humanity. "Idealism is powerful," said Malley. "These are some inspired and inspiring people."


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