Journal Excerpts: Global Village with Shana

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Shana Lewis, volunteer coordinator, takes you day by day through our recent Global Village trip to El Salvador.

Day 1:

During our ride to the hostel, I was in awe of the landscape. The mountains and volcanoes, the sugar cane fields and the clear skies. It’s beautiful here. People sell fruit from stands on the side of the road. There are buses and trucks that transport people back and forth and a lot of people walking with baskets. The homes outside of the town are set up kind of like neighborhoods. There are several concrete homes surrounded by fences. In San Vicente the houses are right beside each other. Other than the signs you can’t tell the shops from the houses.

Day 2:

After a trip to the lagoon, we came back to the hostel for lunch and to meet the family. A husband and wife (Jaime and Cindy) and their three children! Cindy is due with their fourth child on Tuesday! Jamie will be working with us on site this week. They were a little shy at first but started to warm up during lunch…

Each time we go someplace, I catch myself being surprised at the similarities. People are nice when we pass by, their children smile and wave at us, people take selfies together and crack jokes. I also look at the homes and notice the differences. Built with concrete, usually gated, some have electric/barbed wire on the roof, the floors are tiled throughout the house instead of carpet, and there is very little grass. But I’m also challenging myself to see the similarities. AC in the bedrooms, a kitchen area for making meals, a solid structure that protects from the elements, running water, and grocery stores and ice cream shops in town.

Day 3:

Our first day on the job site was a good one! The home we are working on is almost done. We spent the day working on the floor of the house by breaking up chunks of concrete, adding dirt, spreading it out and tamping it flat. Also, Cindy had her baby today and Jaime was able to go see her at lunch time! We are all very excited for them. Right now they are renting a room but in a few weeks they will be homeowners!

I’m so excited for Estela (also a Greater Indy Habitat homebuyer) to build her home with us. I am impressed that she is helping another family in her home country with the same need: decent, affordable housing. I feel like the mission has come full circle and it’s only Monday.

Day 4:

Another day of laying dirt in the kitchen and living room floor. We moved at least 180 5-gallon buckets of dirt today. Maybe now we are done in these rooms! We did have some great team work and a lot of laughs on site today. Jaime showed us pictures of his newborn. She has a lot of hair! He didn’t know the weight but knows she is healthy.

Day 5:

I’ve realized today that we all have similar aspirations. I’ve also realized that people don’t need lavish, 6-bedroom homes to be happy and comfortable. While we are addressing a very real need, these homes provide the basics and are comfortable. There are 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and washroom, a kitchen, and a living room. The floor will be tiled and they will have a steel roof over their heads…The homeowner is even planting trees on the property, which I think is awesome! I’ve been humbled by this trip and am grateful for the comforts I have back home.

Day 6:

We worked on adding another layer of block around the house for the walls. I was terrible at filling in the gaps so I mostly ran mortar back and forth to everyone on the scaffolding. It was a much easier day than the rest of the week since we weren’t shoveling dirt and sand.

Day 7:

Today was our last day on the work site and it was bittersweet for me. I’m happy that we got so much accomplished. We sped up the build by 2.5 weeks in 5 days. I’m happy that we will get to relax tomorrow and I’m happy that I will be home soon. I’m also sad that we won’t pile into the van to go to the work site again. I’m sad that we won’t be here to finish the house and that we are leaving such a beautiful country. I will be making the most of our last full day tomorrow.

Day 8:

At dinner, our team gathered around the table one last time before going home. We ate, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company. The restaurant at the resort had karaoke after dinner and the girls sang several songs while the rest of us cheered them on. It was such a nice day of relaxation after a week of such hard work. These people who were strangers one week ago are now friends who take care of each other. It’s amazing how serving others can bring people together.

Learn more about the Global Village program and share your interest in our next trip.

Pilgrimage to Koinonia Farm and Global Village

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Written by Maura Kautsky, Board Chair

A group of Tigers, fellow board members and staff took a four day service and educational trip to Koinonia Farm and the Global Village & Discover Center in Americus, Georgia to see and hear the Habitat story. Our trip was guided by our chauffer, the one and only Jim Morris. We picked up our tour guide and chief story teller Clive Rainey, the Habitat for Humanity’s first ever volunteer, and off we went to Koinonia Farms.

We spent the first two days at Koinonia Farm, a Christian fellowship community, the place where Millard and Linda Fuller conceived Habitat. Together with Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan and a few others, the Fullers initiated a ministry in housing where they built modest houses on a no-profit, no-interest basis. Homeowner families were expected to invest their own labor into the building of their home and the houses of other families and from it Habitat was born. As part of our tour Clive showed us where those first homes are located and they look like many of the homes we build today. While on the farm many of us sorted pecans and learned about golden pecans, the best quality. The farm makes its money from the sales of pecan goods.

We then headed to Americus to visit the Global Village. It was so inspiring to me to see how far reaching Habitat has grown to serve so many countries. The Global Village is right by Habitat’s headquarters so we stopped in to look around. We ended our time in Americus with a dinner Clive arranged with Linda Fuller, co-founder of Habitat. What a blessing for us to talk with her and hear her journey. View photos from the trip!

We had a lot of fun together and I want to share a few other notable memories from our trip:

  • Have you ever seen a Palmetto bug? If so you won’t forget how big they are. (Sorry Eileen for screaming and waking you up.) And thanks to Ted and Paul for coming to the rescue and removing it from our room.
  • Did you know you can tap two pecan shells together to crack them open to get to the raw delicious nut inside?
  • John Peer is a great euchre partner. Thanks for making us the undefeated champs.
  • The southern food is incredible in Georgia. I think I ate more food in four days than I do in two weeks. In particular, Mom’s Kitchen has the best fried chicken and Grits Café serves a delicious fried green tomato sandwich and sweet potato fries. Yummy!
  • I am inspired by Clive Rainey’s servant leadership and how he dedicated his whole life to Habitat’s mission. He is a true inspiration and I am privileged that I can now call him my friend.

I walked away from these past four days with a full heart, new friends and an ongoing appreciation for what Habitat has done and continues to do to serve families with a goal to provide affordable housing to all. I will leave you with something Clive shared with us that he heard form a homeowner that sums up how Habitat changes and impacts families: “As I built my house, I built myself.” -Habitat homeowner

P.S. Koinonia Farms is still serving after 75 years and they have a focus on hospitality, an internship program and demonstrating sustainable farming practices. Their golden delicious pecans are used to create wonderful chocolate, pecan brittle, breads, and they sell bags of nuts. All great gifts  –

Maintaining the Spirit

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Meredith Canfield reflects back on her first year in the role of Volunteer Manager for Greater Indy Habitat.

Being that this was my first year on the Greater Indy Habitat team, I’ve had many opportunities to share of my new job with friends, family or even strangers. I can usually guess the response I will get after I tell someone I work for Habitat. It’s usually something like, “Oh wow, what an exciting job! What’s it like to work on the build site?” Most – if not all people – are surprised when I say that I’m mainly in the office working with our corporate sponsors to coordinate volunteers. Over time I’ve even noticed that a fair amount of people look disappointed after I derail their Disney-build site version of what it’s like to work at Habitat. I have learned to quickly respond with “I’m meant for an office setting. I don’t like getting dirty,” which helps to make people laugh. While getting dirty doesn’t actually bother me, the other part is true. I am meant for the office. I came from the corporate world, so emails and spreadsheets are my jam.

Being that I spend most of my time in the office, it’s easy to get laser focused on emails, meetings, and quick clicking strategic thoughts. I know, I know. There has to be someone in the backgrounds coordinating volunteers so the build site can come alive with groups of eager and excited people to walk alongside our homeowners. For this behind the curtain girl, these day-to-day tasks are totally my strengths but don’t always fuel my spirit like people, their stories or their hearts do. Earlier this year I decided I needed to find ways to maintain the spirit instead of just maintaining spreadsheets!

Getting out of the office to periodically serve as a build site volunteer was just what I needed! I helped to raise the walls of Danyelle’s home, carried heavy pieces of sod for Miranda’s yard, and used a nail gun to hang up siding on the front of Christine’s house. I loved hanging with volunteers, spending time with our homeowners, and learning the ins and outs of home construction from our Tiger Team. Not only did it fuel my spirit in ways a crossed off to-do list could never do, it gave me a new found appreciation for the hard work put in by our homeowners, volunteers, and construction staff, who work together to build beautiful homes.

Reflecting back on my first year, working for Habitat IS an exciting job and I feel very blessed to be a part of a team that encourages me to find ways to maintain the spirit behind a computer and on the build site. It’s hard to believe that 2017 is nearly over and I feel excited for another year of yes… emails, meetings, and spreadsheets but also a year of purpose, spirit, and joy.

To schedule your own out of the office build day in 2018, sign up for our monthly updates by registering here!

ReStore Reuse: Wooden Pallets

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Written by Andy Duncan, ReStore Development

Reuse is the raison d’etre of the ReStore. Of the three “R’s” we’re all taught are crucial to environmental responsibility and green living – the “Reduce” part being heavily reliant on personal lifestyle change, and the “Recycle” part typically taken on by infrastructure – the Reuse component falls heavily on charity and thrift shops to make reusable donation available to the public and ReStore does so with categories of items most other thrift stores do not.

As such, we at the ReStore spend a fair amount of time imagining all the possibilities in the donations we get. Sure, most things donated and purchased at the ReStore will find use somewhere close to their intended purpose, but there are still plenty of things at the ReStore that with a little imagination can be utterly repurposed. The last time I posted on the blog, I was turning light fixtures into terrariums. That’s just one example of the myriad projects that can be found at your typical ReStore. Another employs one of the most abundant resources found at any ReStore: wooden pallets.

Being raw wood arrayed in an alternating pattern in two planes a few inches apart, there are a number of things pallets could be readily be used as, such as this one intrepid gardener who turned mostly-intact pallets into a trellis for raspberries. Another intrepid DIY-er used pallets to make a headboard for a king-sized bed.


Reclaimed lumber from pallets is most versatile, usable for anything that requires actual wood. But we did just get a large donation of decorative wall panels that are laminate with wood grain pattern finishes over composite wood material (see photo below!). This kind of material is less versatile than real wood, but has more design potential. We’ve been selling them several boxes at a time, and I’m excited to see what the DIY-ers who have been picking these up end up doing with them. The ReStore is the perfect place to find materials and inspiration for a DIY imagination.

Home Means: A Living Room of Records

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Many of us take for granted the ability to paint the walls of our home or customize our living spaces. Moving from apartment to apartment, whether for rising rent or a negligent landlord, means that renters are unable to personalize their space, even as simple as hanging family photos.

Our homebuyers often share that this ability to personalize their living space is something they specifically look forward to in owning their first home. Marina, a 2017 Habitat homeowner, shared photos of how she customized her living room with a music theme. She wrote: “I love the green I chose. It turned out so beautifully! It gives my music theme some Pizzazz! I just have to get another curtain rod, so I can put up my navy blue curtains.”

Check out her photos below!

Thanks, Marina, for sharing a peak into your home!