by Gail Kirkpatrick
Recently I had the privilege to serve Habitat for Humanity in a new way. I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska for a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Build. I spent 11 days there with 24 other people who traveled from around the United States. Two of those people were the team leaders who, along with an Anchorage Affiliate staff member, coordinated our living arrangements, food, transportation, community connections, and extra-curricular activities.
A Global Village Build is different from building with local volunteers. Our Boise Valley Habitat volunteers usually come out on Saturday with some work being done during the week. With a Global Village Build there is a large team of people who stay for a week or more and build every day except Sunday. The Anchorage affiliate hires team leaders to guide and teach the volunteers. It’s called a global build because anyone, anywhere in the world can sign up to work; I can go to Nepal or Chile to help build if I wished.
I have wanted to participate in a global build for many years. It definitely was on my “bucket list” and so was Alaska. So I put the two together, found a good time, and signed up. Habitat does not pay for these trips – it is up to the individual to fundraise or pay out of their own pockets. The cost of the trip includes a donation to the affiliate to help them build more homes.
The subdivision we worked on consists of 23 homes – some duplexes, some standalone homes. As you can see by the picture below it is very colorful. I think that’s to make up for the long, dark, cold winters. We were working on the 6 houses that will complete the subdivision. The diversity of the families is great – many different races and cultures are present. Some of the families in the subdivision are refugees or immigrants to Alaska.
We worked on the build site Monday through Saturday and again on the next Monday from 8am to 4pm, and then Tuesday (last day) from 8am to 1pm. On the last day we had a house blessing which was really a party with all the construction people and two of the families. We got to write our blessings for the family on the interior wall studs and had time to take lots of pictures.
The 6 houses our team worked on were in different stages of construction. Three were just concrete slabs, two were framed, and one was in the finishing stage. I personally worked some on the framed duplex, then ripped sill plates for the other duplex (see photo above), but spent most of my time doing finishing work (caulking, painting, closet shelves).
I was the oldest one on the team, the youngest being 16, and half being under 30. It was taxing for me to keep up with the “youngsters” and I was absolutely exhausted when we were finished. But it wasn’t all work. We did some sightseeing, hiking, and many did a polar plunge into a glacier fed lake - too cold for me! On our last Sunday we took an excursion to Seward and the Kenai Fjords. We boarded a boat and cruised to Aialik Glacier. Along the way we saw whales, sea lions, seals, otters, puffins, bald eagles, and other birds. On the way back we almost hit a young bear that was crossing the highway. We also saw lots of moose during our stay.
We slept in a church and made our own breakfasts. When we were on the build site local people brought lunch for us. After a day of building we were transported to a local gym to shower and then off to dinner.
Many of our dinners were with host families – local supporters of Habitat that invited us into their homes (can you imagine dinner for 25?). One host family provided us with Karaoke on through their Xbox - that was a great hit! At another home we had grilled salmon, halibut, and veggie kabobs along with other dishes. One host family was avid Green Bay Packers fans. Their front door was painted with a Green Bay Packers logo and the inside of their house was full of memorabilia (and no, they were not from Green Bay). My favorite time was with a host family that used to race in the Iditarod. They have since retired and so have their dogs, but they still have about 10 Alaskan Huskies and we were able to interact with them – such beautiful creatures.
I will carry the memories of this experience with me forever. Another global village build in the future … who knows? Never say never!