The week before Mother’s Day, May 4-12th marks the 6th Annual Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Week, a week to celebrate and empower women around the nation to help improve their communities by building homes for those in need. Women Build is an opportunity for women from all walks of life to come together and address the severe housing crisis facing millions of women and children around the world. According to the Census Bureau, more than 16 million children are living in poverty in the United States and nearly 48 percent of the children reside with women as head of the household. Women Build is a way for women to help other women and work together to build a stronger, more stable community.
Women Build was developed in partnership with the home improvement guru Lowe’s, who donated $1.75 million to support this year’s initiative, with an estimated 10,000 volunteers nationwide participating. Over the last five years, nearly 41,000 women have participated in Women Build events across the country and over 275 homes were completed last year alone during the 2012 National Women Build Week.
In honor of this year’s Women Build week, I had the opportunity to talk with Lisa Marie Nickerson, Associate Director of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build. Lisa began working with Habitat for Humanity in 2001 with Habitat’s Youth Programs and then moved over to Women Build in 2008. As a former Peace Corp Volunteer who is an avid traveler and has seen poverty firsthand, Lisa brings a wealth of knowledge and passion into Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program. Here is a summary of what Lisa had to say about this amazing program.
Women Build began in 1998 as a movement to inspire and motivate women to help their communities and challenge them to do something different: To don a hard hat and power tools and build a house for someone in need. In 2004 Women Build entered a strategic partnership with Lowe’s, which has greatly helped the program take-off. Lowe’s is a major sponsor and underwriter of Women Build. Each year during National Women Build Week (which allows lies the week before Mother’s Day) Lowe’s provides competitive grant opportunities and offers free how-to clinics for U.S. Women Build affiliates. Lowe’s is committing $1.5 million to National Women Build Week 2013. They are also providing $5,000 Lowe’s store gift cards and event support materials to 300 Habitat affiliates.
One thing that is so incredibly amazing about National Women Build Week is that Habitat for Humanity is able to amass over 10,000 female volunteers from 50 states and from all walks of life. That is quite an accomplishment! No skills are necessary as Habitat for Humanity will train either on-site or at one of Lowe’s in-house trainings. The average age of a Women Build volunteer is over 30 yet there are young and old alike. The important thing is that women are coming together to do something great for their community and also learn a new skill, building a home, which may be a little bit out of their comfort zone.
When asked what inspires these women to give up a minimum of a day volunteering, Lisa provided a variety of reasons. First, Women Build provides women an ability to give back to their community. Simply put, it feels good. Also, the future homeowner (who is actually the homebuyer as Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to have the homeowner involved and also buy the house at an affordable price once completed) is there alongside the women crew building the house together as a team. Second, Women Build gives women the ability to serve others and learn a new skill. Building a house is not something most women do every day so the project provides a challenging experience for those who want to give back in a new way. Finally, perhaps the best part of all for volunteering with Women Build is the overall excitement and teamwork of the project. The feeling of accomplishment and joy once the home is completed gives everyone involved a feeling of compassion and deep satisfaction. Witnessing the impact a new home has on a family in need is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
The last question I asked Lisa was about what kind of impact Women Build Week has on the communities they serve. Lisa shared her own story about growing up with a single working mom who struggled to make ends meet and how having a stable home meant the world to her. She believes strongly that providing a stable home has a huge impact on family stability and success. A stable home not only offers a person shelter but a place to live, to learn and to grow. A place to feel a part of a community and feel proud. I couldn’t agree with Lisa more on the importance of providing a stable, happy place to raise a family.
I was so inspired by my conversation with Lisa about Women Build that I was able to sign up for an opening at one of the upcoming build sites in North Minneapolis! This Friday, May 10th I will be joining 10,000 other women across the nation to help build a home for those in need. I’ve never touched a power tool or worn a hard hat before. But I’m ready! Stay tuned…for sure a follow-up post about the experience will be coming up!
In the meantime, I wanted to spread the word about how you can help promote Women Build. Details are below. Please feel free to spread the word.
#WomenBuild Twitter Party
To celebrate and build excitement for this year’s Women Build week, Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build (@WomenBuild) is hosting a #WomenBuild13 Twitter party with Amy Lupold Blair from Resourceful Mommy (@ResourcefulMom) on Wednesday, May 1 at 11 am PT/2 pm ET. Please join us for a thoughtful conversation of the importance of creating decent and affordable housing and how women are empowered to lend a hand in their communities.