Further Reflections from the 2016 Community Service Division Habitat Build

The memorable day began early, and yet it was already hot and muggy. As soon as we climbed onto the air-conditioned shuttle bus and started getting to know one another, I could tell that we had a great group of very enthusiastic and energetic people who couldn’t wait to volunteer on a project together. I was fortunate enough to sit next to a first-time Conventioneer from Virginia named Tracie who had a black lab guide dog named Jesse. We became work partners at the site, and that was the beginning of a new-found friendship for us. I am so glad that I got the chance to meet her! I was familiar with the Habitat for Humanity organization because my employer, Wells Fargo Bank, is a big sponsor. I had always wanted to work on a home, but I never dreamed that it would be possible. I lacked the imagination and confidence to visualize myself actually performing a worthwhile task that would be of help to them, but the day that I spent with the NFB Community Service Team in Orlando proved that I was very mistaken in my way of thinking. Not only were the Habitat Team themselves very open and ready to teach and guide our Team on how to perform new skills such as operating a power drill to hang drywall, but they also demonstrated that they had confidence in our capabilities. When we first arrived, I do think that they may have felt a little nervous about how best to work with our group given our vision loss, but we quickly put them at ease by demonstrating our excellent orientation and mobility skills (no one even tripped, let alone fell, over all of the obstacles in and outside the property, which they were initially concerned about) and our ability to learn quickly with verbal and tactile instruction. We all caught on fast and were eager to try out our new skills. There is no doubt in my mind that we left a very positive impression with the Habitat team as well as the other volunteers who we worked alongside. Plus, most importantly, we accomplished a real tangible service for a community in need. We were the givers of help and support versus being the receivers, and wearing that shoe on the other foot felt super nice for a change!!! I am grateful to the NFB Community Service Division for making this special day possible. It was a very meaningful experience.
- Jennifer Westbrook, California

The reason I signed up for this event was because I had that day off and I felt it would be beneficial if I did something productive that day. When I signed up, I was not sure what would be expected of me. I knew that my experience in construction would help me, but I was not sure how. As the group of volunteers traveled to the site, I told myself that I was ready for anything no matter what it was. What I enjoyed the most that day was getting to know other Federationists from different parts of the country and seeing how we all had similar views towards volunteering, blindness, and our common goal to live the lives we want. At the end of the day, I believed that it was a productive day. Not only did we assist with the construction of a home, but we were also able to show our fellow sighted team members that our blindness does not serve as a barrier that prevents us from giving back to our community.
- Salvador Villa, Texas

My expectations for volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Orlando may have been higher than most. You see, this hands on, manual labor is right up my alley. At my home in Louisville, Kentucky, I maintain every aspect I can, everything from the landscaping to general plumbing repair. I wish we could have done more on that day, but I know what we did was more than just hanging some drywall & helping the community: We shattered the expectations of the Habitat for Humanity staff. Our willingness, our enthusiasm, our determination, & our attitude redefined what it means to be blind to the Habitat team.
- Nickie Pearl, Kentucky