Last Friday I decided to test out one of the volunteer opportunities I’ve had the pleasure of writing about on my blog: Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build. After interviewing Lisa Marie Nickerson, Associate Director of Women Build (to read post, click here) I was inspired to see what this program and experience was all about. I signed up for a time slot and was able to help out for a few hours on Friday morning.

The Women Build project I participated in was in North Minneapolis which was struck nearly two years ago by a tornado which caused extensive damage and financial strife to this low-income community with many uninsured and under-insured homeowners. About 4,000 homes were damaged from the tornado and 200 left uninhabitable. Thankfully, Habitat for Humanity was able to provide a lot of disaster recovery support and the work to improve the neighborhood continues today.

Friday’s project was part of Habitat for Humanity’s “A Brush with Kindness” program that assists low-income families in repairing and renovating their homes so they can continue to live in safe, decent homes. A Brush with Kindness projects include painting, landscaping, weatherization and minor repair services. Most of the work is done on the exterior of the house however interior work takes over during the winter months (these services include drywall, plaster repair, flooring and painting).

A Brush with Kindness is a program that helps preserve homeownership by partnering with homeowners struggling to restore and maintain a safe and decent place to live. When basic expenses exceed income month after month, home maintenance is the usual casualty. Years of deferred maintenance can cause a downward spiral of home deterioration and unsafe living conditions. – Habitat for Humanity

I arrived on site around 8:30 am for a thorough briefing and prepping on what we were going to do. I was incredibly impressed by the level of training Habitat for Humanity provided us. They went through each tool and told us how to use it properly and safely, walked us through the steps of the project at hand, told us some history and background on Habitat for Humanity and also told us the story on the homeowner, a 79-year-old single woman who has lived in the house for over 49 years! Unfortunately she isn’t very mobile yet peaked outside the windows from time to time to give us a smile.

IMG_6572 IMG_6576Above: Some of the tools and supplies we’d be using. Our job was to scrap away the old, lead-based paint, wash and scrub the stucco, and repaint the home. Today was day three of the project and it was expected to be completed the next day.

Below is Maia, an Americorp volunteer who has worked with Habitat for Humanity for the last nine months, giving us a demonstration on how to work the ladder. IMG_6574 IMG_6578 All in all, we had about 10 volunteers that day, all women. I must say it was so amazing to be working together with a group of women volunteering in a traditionally male role. There were a lot of laughs and sharing about everyone’s past experiences with Habitat for Humanity. I met one woman who has been volunteering with Habitat for years and recently did Habitat for Humanity’s work project in Haiti. I enjoyed talking with her and learning what inspired her to dedicate so much of her time to such manual volunteer work. She said the trips she has made with Habitat for Humanity were life-changing and to work alongside the new homeowner is quite a connection and feeling of empowerment. IMG_6582

Although I didn’t get to stay the entire day, I still was able to get a sense of the importance that Habitat for Humanity provides to people. I can’t imagine not having a safe, happy place to live. A place to call my own. Having a home is a basic human dignity and even if I only got to scrub a few sides of Orelly’s house, I knew that together we had made a difference in her life and that is all that matters.

Habitat for Humanity offers volunteer opportunities for any skill set. To learn more about what you can do to help others as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, click here. Work projects are offered all over the world. 


  1. Hooray for you, Nicole–your first Women’s Build. I’ve done them in Lexington–great fun and work with a purpose. Sara and I are getting settled in Ecuador–though we’ve only been here a little over a week. Hope you’ll come visit sometime!

  2. That is a true act of kindness and generosity. To actually be there and be a part of the many hands that will help rebuild someone’s home and dreams is just beyond inspiring. Imagine if everyone who have more materially can do the same all over the world instead on dwelling with trivial things that don’t last. my friend, you and your community are a blessing to many.

    1. Oh thank you. I feel the same way. I don’t understand why people don’t help. Some do a tremendous amount and others just turn an eye. I know I’m fortunate. We have all we need so I feel it is my absolute duty to help give back to others who don’t. We are very blessed. 🙂

  3. I can’t believe the woman has lived in the same house for so long. Good for her. and good for all of you helping her.

  4. Wow! That’s exciting! Love for others & helping them to be safe from weather & giving them of your time & effort. Hope they were greatly appreciative of what was done to their homes because that’s a lot of work to do. it must have been so rewarding too!

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