Almost Heaven – Habitat For Humanity – West Virginia
Having traveled to various parts of the world I’ve had the opportunity to visit different communities that are below the poverty line. Seeing lifestyles and cultural differences in Soweto, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Mexico, Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, and China (to name a few) really made a big impression, especially seeing it all first hand. This experience was a bit different as it was one much closer to home (geographically) and for this one I was traveling with 30 teenagers.
We were welcomed into “Almost Heaven” by our hosts who greeted us graciously. We received an orientation of our dorms, the area and of some of the expectations. Over the next few days the plan was for us to visit a few different sites in order to help build houses and reinforce the community. This community has an average income of $14000 per family. Many people here have not graduated from high school and those that did travel 2 hours a day in each direction for their jobs. Students spend 2 hours on buses a day to learn at the only high school in the area. Life is different here; at least different from the life many of us live where I come from.
We went to the Riverbend community, which is a small community of houses that have been built over the last 20 years or so. Some of these houses have taken over a year and a half to complete. We were working on houses that can hold three families. The group spent the day doing the sofets (under part of the roof) and sidings – learning how to drill, saw, measure, cut the materials and install them. By the end of the day we gained a lot of ground, but there was so much more to do.
We also went to an area that truly made us think of how lucky we are to have all that we do. Up on a mountain in the middle of nowhere are a few homes in a very country setting. Hoisted on cinder blocks is an old metal trailer probably from the 70’s. It has no running water, no plumbing, no electricity, what is does have is a smoke stack coming out of it which heats the trailer from a wood burning stove. A few feet away is the house that is being built for this family. The house is nearly complete, last bit of trim work and door installations were done as well as a lot of painting and landscaping. We started to build the deck in the back of the house. This house will be a drastic change for the family moving in. Since the interior is just about done and the weather is becoming colder, the family has actually started sleeping on the floor in the main room of the new house because even without heat in there, it is still warmer than the trailer at night.
The third location offers an amazing view of the valley, town and the mountains. The house is also nearly complete just required priming and painting, landscaping and the porch needed pickets and railings.
This truly was an eye-opening experience for the entire group. While the manual labor was a great workout and the sense of accomplishment was immense, there is nothing that can compare to the feelings of satisfaction, pride, and fulfillment and of course gratitude. This was a prominent reminder to all of us to remember how lucky we are in the lives that we live.
While we had this experience working with Almost Heaven’s Habitat For Humanity in West Virginia, it is important to consider that there is poverty much closer to home – even in your city right now. We don’t need to go work for organizations like this one to be able to help others in need. There are many organizations like them and many individuals that need our help every day. Whether it’s picking up the mail for someone who can’t, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway when they can’t, distributing soup in a soup kitchen, painting someone’s house or even fixing a light bulb. There are small things that we can each do to help someone in need.
What will you do to contribute to our society?