Tuesday, January 20, 2009

MLK Jr National Day of Service Memories...

Photo Courtesy of Kate Fritz,
Volunteer Coordinator
Habitat for Humanity and Americorps
I'm the fifth from the left in the first row (white hardhat)
Yesterday thirteen volunteers showed up at a quarter to eight in the morning to spend more than half a day shoveling heavy, rocky substrate into wheelbarrows and then pushing the wheelbarrows into the interior of a new home that Habitat for Humanity is building for a very deserving family (information on the family follows my report).
The reason the substrate had to be transported via wheelbarrows rather than by a conveyor belt is that conveyor belts are extremely expensive to rent and because the type of home being built had to have the sides put up completely before the substrate went in. I forget the type of building it is, but the walls are all concrete inside (for soundproofing). They had to be in and stable before the substrate went in.
It was a very cold morning, with fog shrouding the work site until just before 2 p.m. when the sun came out just long enough to get the above photo. (Thank you, Jesus!) I haven't worked that hard on that sustained a basis for decades, so it was invigorating... exhausting... blood-churning, pulse-raising. I have one of those nifty mio sports watches and kept checking my pulse to be sure I wasn't working past 90% of my heart rate. A couple times I found my pulse at 148 beats per minute, so I'd stop and take a brief breather whenever I saw that happening. I have a healthy heart, so my heart rate plummets quickly as soon as I back off a little.
I spent about half of the time pushing a wheelbarrow, until my pusher muscles gave out after about two hours. (There was a ramp going into the structure that was at about a 45 degree angle, and inside the structure the downward angle was even more precipitous, so getting a wheelbarrow up and down was not an easy task.) After that, I took up a shovel and started putting the substrate into wheelbarrows for others to push in.
We got through the first mound of dirt (several yards of it) in a bit over an hour, but then the trucking company brought in another four loads of the stuff. What you see in the photo is what we DIDN'T get inside the building. But we raised the level inside the building quite a lot by the time they called a halt at 2. (Because we were all really pooped by then!) We got a 45 minute lunch around noon and then I helped another crew chief lift and load some concrete forms (wooden forms used as walls for concrete pours) and other boards at another house being built by Habitat for another family.
It was a hard-working, heart-warming day. I look forward to doing it again. If I do this kind of thing often enough, I'd work off my excess weight in half a year, I'll bet!
And now... here's the rest of the story... written by someone else. This is the story of the family we're building the home for.
Nguyen Duong Family Story
2008 - 8 - 26
by Jerry Lejeune, Family Partner

In the summer of 2006 Hung Nguyen, his wife Nga, and their 13 year old son Hao left Saigon Vietnam and headed for Tacoma. Nga's mother was already living in Tacoma with one of her nine children. She had come to live here to help with her grandchildren.
As soon as the Nguyens arrived they all went to Richards' farm in Puyallup and got jobs picking raspberries. This was the first sign of their constant effort to work and better themselves.
In Saigon Hung had been a successful veterinarian. He loves his profession but his lack of English has prevented him from taking the necessary tests here to get his veterinarian's license.
Hung didn't let that stop him from searching for employment. Less than a month after arriving in Tacoma he found full time work in a bag factory. He also took ESL classes at Tacoma Community College.
His wife, Nga had been a sewing teacher in Saigon. It took her almost a full year but she eventually found a job in a nail shop. It is only part time and she must travel to Bremerton but you will hear no complaints from this family.
Their son, Hao, is bright, cheerful and respectful. While in Saigon he took English in school and his parents also got him a tutor to help learn the language. In the fall of 2006 he enrolled in Keithly Middle School.
During his first year at Keithly Hao played soccer, football and tennis. He has also found time to volunteer with metro parks and enjoyed working with the young children. His smile is infectious and it's not hard to imagine that he was welcomed warmly by both teachers and his peers. Hao is now 15 and this fall he will be a sophomore at Washington High School. He looks forward to playing sports but he also has a goal to go to college and study to be a veterinarian. His dad's eyes light up when Hao talks about this.
This is a family that puts a high value on education and hard work. It is also a family that genuinely likes each other. It's easy to see this when you are around them.
Presently Hung, Nga, Hao and Nga's mother Thu are all living in a very small apartment. In October 2007 they applied to Habitat for a home. They have met almost all of their "sweat equity hours" (500 hours each) and are anxiously awaiting news of a house. Working with a family like the Nguyens is a real reminder of why we believe in Habitat. These are good, industrious, proud people who are willing to work to make their dream come true.

1 comment:

T'Prillah said...

Kris, That looks like a wonderful experience! Habitat does fantastic things for people and it's great that you are a part of them.