May 16, 2013 | 2 Comments
Throughout the month, we are sharing blog posts about our Global Village volunteer trip to Vietnam earlier this year. Here, Shelley, a Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco donor, shares her tongue-in-cheek entry from the group’s travel journal.
I learned how to build a house:
1. Haul 12,000 bricks from a pile down the street
2. Throw all of the bricks into the center of the foundation
3. Move the 12,000 bricks into neat stacks along the wall; make sure to alternate direction of bricks
4. Begin mortar production. DO NOT SKIMP on the number of volcanoes. Haul buckets of mortar to bricklayers.
5. Mortar bricks—see #3 for basic pattern
6. Install scaffolding. Make sure that it’s at least six inches lower than the height of the tallest person
7. Haul 70+ wheelbarrows full of dirt into site. Make sure ramp up to site is fairly impassable. THROW DIRT ALL OVER THE BRICKS.
8. Drink 10-12 shots of rice wine and toast your wonderful Team Awesome and everyone in the commune ’cause now you love them all.
May 10, 2013 | 3 Comments
Throughout the month, we are sharing blog posts about our Global Village volunteer trip to Vietnam earlier this year. Here, Meryl, a Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco donor, shares memories around community and food.
An hour or so before dawn, I awoke to intensely disturbing sounds. Sounds that killed the possibility of returning to sleep.
These sounds signaled severe distress, panic, fear. Lying in bed, I went through a short list trying to identify the source. Even for a city person like me, it didn’t take long to arrive at the grim conclusion: animals – pigs — were being slaughtered for the morning market.
This was the dawn of our first build day in Loc Trung village. Our group of twenty awoke in varying states of eagerness, jetlag, curiosity and, sure, some anxiety. Stumbling downstairs to the dining hall as we assembled to make our breakfast decision (pho? eggs and bread?), the sleepy chatter revealed that I wasn’t alone in my wide-eyed, sleep-destroying dismay.
“Did you hear the noise?”
“What were those awful sounds?”
“What was going on out there?”
Questions were posed at every table. Staring at each other, the realization sinking in, we viscerally understood what “fresh food” means in Vietnam. Long flights behind us, we were now clearly in a very different place.
For the next four days, we worked on building two simple brick homes. The physical aspect—mixing mortar with spades and shovels, carrying mortar bucket by bucket, becoming remarkably proficient at brick laying—was tiring in that “good way,” coming from solid days of manual labor punctuated only by snack and lunch breaks. The emotional aspect—working side by side with homeowners’ family and neighbors—brought us endless laughter, smiles, hugs and bound us all together in a miraculous way. Babies were held and hugged. School children heading home for lunch on rusty, hand-me-down-and-down-and-down bikes, stopped to practice their primary school English words and marvel excitedly at their mirror images in pictures on our iPhones.
Every day, we met for lunch at a neighbor’s spacious home. Local women cooked indescribably delicious food. Righteous locavores of our Bay Area homeland would have approved. A variety of flash-fried greens, picked just hours earlier from beds that bordered the nearby rice paddies, were a staple, along with big bowls of perfectly steamed rice. There was always an assortment of grilled or stir-fried fresh meats, fish or chicken, each with appropriate bowls of condiments and dipping sauces. Aside from the customary rice and greens, our mid-day meals were unique every day.
We all ate heartily, unburdened by intellectual discussions of the underlying reality of truly fresh food.
By the end of our work week, both new homes were completed to the roofline. On Friday we were treated like extra-special dignitaries. We visited school classrooms and enjoyed recess with the kids. There was reciprocal speechifying from our tireless and inspired team leader Alison, the Nam Hung commune bosses and leadership from the Hanoi Habitat for Humanity office. Uncle Ho (Chi Minh) looked down on us approvingly from his red-draped, enshrined statue.
And then, we gathered at long tables to celebrate the end of our build. We raised glasses and toasted just about everyone and everything. We filled glasses again (and again) and raised them again (and again). Homebrewed rice wine definitely hampers the ability to count beyond three.
“Mot. Hai. Ba… Jo!” One, two, three… drink!
Every person on our Global Village project in Thai Binh province learned that heart-to-heart communication is possible, even without the spoken vocabulary to express it. This experience is a true revelation, and Habitat for Humanity provided the shared goal. We contributed our physical and emotional energy. Our generous hosts nourished us with their love… and truly fresh food.
“We cannot change the past. What we can change is the future.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson
April 25, 2013 | 2 Comments
The past two weekends we’ve celebrated the efforts of 36 partner families and 11,000 volunteers and countless donors, with the completion of our large development to date, 7555 Mission. Beyond the impact homeownership will have on these 36 families, the complex is one of the largest and most innovative Habitat for Humanity builds in the world, epitomizing smart and environmentally sound building standards, raising the bar for other Habitat affiliates around the country.
Sitting on just .69 acres of what used to be empty parking lot, 7555 Mission is walking distance from the Colma BART station and has plenty of bike racks for our families to use, encouraging greener forms of transportation. Additionally, condominium homes reduce the impact of the development on the environment, as well as the total cost of the home.
The 36 homes are built on a concrete foundation made with recycled fly ash, which increases the concrete’s strength and durability while recycling waste materials from coal-fired power plants.
Fiber-cement siding—made from a mixture of recycled paper and cement—is resistant to moisture, fire, scratches, dents and termite damage. It also requires less frequent repainting than comparable products.
All of the walls are lined with recycled denim insulation. Using this type of insulation not only keeps the building warm, but also keeps landfills clear of recyclable materials, like your blue jeans!
Thanks to our partnership with PG&E and GRID Alternatives, the common areas, elevators and irrigation systems are solar-powered to cut down on energy costs. Each unit is outfitted with brand new, energy star-rated appliances and low-flow toilets. These items save water and energy, keeping costs low for our homeowners.
All of these aspects and more lend to 7555 Mission being one of the most innovative Habitat developments in the country, and help us serve the Daly City community in more ways than one, providing affordable homeownership opportunities while reducing impact on the environment. We are happy to welcome our 36 new homeowners to 7555 Mission as it is transformed from a sustainably-constructed building, to 36 sustainably-constructed homes.
April 24, 2013 | Leave a Comment
The past year has been an exciting one for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco: the ReStore in San Carlos opened, 7555 Mission is now complete, the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative program has expanded, and our organization continues to grow and make a deeper impact in our service area in San Francisco, Marin and the Peninsula.
We know none of these programs would achieve the success they have without the help of volunteers. Volunteers are truly the backbone of Habitat Greater San Francisco, and our unique programs allow these volunteers from different backgrounds and walks of life to make a direct and lasting impact in the community together. It’s very easy and satisfying to see the physical changes we’ve made to the communities in which we work: an empty lot becomes a three-story building, a run-down house is transformed to a new happy home, a vacant storefront becomes a boon to local economy, and a littered park becomes a safe place to play again. What’s more, beyond that, people are transformed through volunteerism and service.
National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate our volunteers doing extraordinary things through service. Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week focuses national attention on the impact and power of volunteerism and service as an integral aspect of our civic leadership.
While the national celebration for volunteers will last only a week, we are thankful to celebrate the help of volunteers throughout the year. To put your impact over the past year into context, just take a look at the numbers :
5: Cities where Habitat Greater SF volunteers worked this past year
8,188: volunteers on all Habitat Greater SF projects from April 2012 to April 2013
$24.75: The estimated value of a volunteer hour in California, meaning we saved homeowners at least $202, 653 in the past year!
19: projects completed 2012-2013
210: total homes built by Habitat Greater SF
While we’ve made amazing steps forward in the growth of our organization, we still have a long way to go in achieving our goal of deepening our community impact through building 400 homes. Like our Habitat homeowners, volunteers are also our partners. We are thankful for your continued partnership with us in the future, leaving your mark on our homeowners and so many more in the community.
AmeriCorps Volunteer Services Coordinator
March 28, 2013 | 2 Comments
Lessons from Habitat for Humanity’s affiliate conference, as told by one of our Volunteer Coordinators, Lauren Stoxen.
All Habitat for Humanity affiliates strive to build decent, affordable homes for our partner families in the United States and around the world, and we do this in a myriad of ways. Even here in the United States some Habitat affiliates’ practices are completely unrecognizable from the way our organization functions at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.
As I sat in a conference room with 2,000 other Habitat employees from around the country at the Habitat for Humanity International Affiliate Conference in Atlanta, GA, it was difficult to decipher who was from what state (I was banking on cowboy hats or winter parkas, so without those clues it was pretty difficult). The conference kicked off with a focus on Habitat for Humanity International, but when I attended small group sessions people had the opportunity to tell their stories, and share insight into how other affiliates operate and how vastly different we are, despite all being affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International.
I met people from Habitat affiliates run by a few volunteers out of someone’s living room, and I met people from affiliates with 50 full-time staff members that have built more than 5,000 homes. Habitat Greater San Francisco falls somewhere in between those extremes. We have built 200 homes since 1989, and that number is growing as we continue to find inventive solutions to our area’s expensive real estate challenges.
It seems like within Habitat for Humanity, being different is the best way to fit in. All Habitat affiliates work differently depending on the resources we have and the areas we serve, but affiliates also take pride in being able to build homes in the dead of winter in Minnesota, or to serve the 23rd most densely populated city in America, San Francisco. But in the end we all have the same goal of building communities around affordable housing, and the paths we take to get there matter little in the grand scheme of achieving that goal.
The Habitat for Humanity International Affiliate Conference reminded us that we do the work we do is for the partner families we serve, and I think it’s safe to say everyone left the conference swelling with pride for the thousands of homes we have built across the world and the amazing families we have had the privilege to serve, each in our own ways.
February 26, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Minh, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as our Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) Coordinator sheds light on the NRI program, weighing in on it’s vision and goals, and the impact it has on communities.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) was introduced as a way for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco to help more families in our focus neighborhoods, and to be more engaged in the community. Here’s the what, where, and why—
What: Home repairs, home safety, weatherization for low-income families, community facility repairs, park beautifications and community engagement.
Where: Bayview, East Palo Alto and the Oceanview, Merced Heights and Ingleside districts (OMI). We work in many of the communities where our Habitat homeowners live, or will soon be living.
Why: Because many neighbors of Habitat Greater San Francisco families also need a hand up, and we have the ability and resources to help. NRI is fortunate to have the funds, staff and volunteers we need to extend our services beyond just building homes.
Our affiliate works in partnership with the San Francisco and Peninsula affiliates of Rebuilding Together, an organization that revitalizes neighborhoods by repairing homes and renovating non-profit facilities and schools. They receive many requests during the year, but don’t have the capacity or resources to meet the demand. We’re able to fill that gap with both resources and volunteers, maximizing the impact of both organizations—it’s a match made in heaven!
To add a little more background–and a wave of promise– Habitat International shares a greater vision: “NRI will become the overarching philosophy of Habitat, rather than just a program…becoming a part of the DNA of every affiliate.”
We take this to mean two major things: that Habitat, as an international organization, seeks to become more involved in holistic community engagement, and that Habitat Greater San Francisco is advocating for a sense of urgency in addressing problems communities in our area face. In the coming years, we will focus NRI programs around our new construction sites in order to multiply our impact.
We’ve already made significant progress.
Recently, our NRI construction crew—Ryan and Andrew, along with many dedicated volunteers—finished painting the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA. In East Palo Alto, we built an elderly resident’s deck, and constructed a day care center which includes an accessible restroom. While these projects don’t fully dig at the deeply rooted challenges the communities we work in identify to us—violence, inadequate public transportation, truancy, etc.—we are focusing our core competencies of construction and volunteerism to help those who need a hand up today.
That said, the change doesn’t end with a new coat of paint or a new fence; the work we do on community facilities provides new spaces for community improvement.
The director of the 104-year-old Redwood City Woman’s Club boasts that due to our renovation work, they are able to increase rentals of their facility, which goes on to fund charitable donations to other community organizations—such as the Salvation Army, the local Veteran’s Hospital, and various student scholarship organizations.
The accessible restroom at the Stewart Chapel enables them to qualify for federal funds to provide local children with safe and affordable education opportunities. The newly-painted Bayview Hunters Point YMCA has inspired neighbors to do some surface renovations themselves. And the planter boxes we built for the Northridge Cooperative Community Garden serve to facilitate a safe, productive space for urban farming education.
On the outside, neighborhoods begin to look better and feel safer. Inside these facilities, there is hope of long-term improvement for communities.
February 22, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Meredyth Skemp, Project Manager in our Real Estate Development department offers insight on her recent trip to Capitol Hill, advocating for continued funding for both Habitat for Humanity endeavors and national service.
On February 4-5, I was one of more than 250 Habitat staff and volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C., for Habitat on the Hill, Habitat’s annual legislative conference. Attendees met with more than 300 members of Congress and their staff to educate them about our work, and to advocate for federal funding programs and national service. The conference was a good reminder that the advocacy we do is imperative to our success as an affordable homeownership provider, and that education is a critical piece of this work.
Advocacy work is not new to Greater San Francisco’s Habitat for Humanity. Staff from our affiliate have been actively involved in legislative issues for years. Most recently, since the elimination of redevelopment agencies in California, we continue to advocate for a permanent dedicated source of funds for affordable housing at the state level.
Upon arriving to the capitol, we were faced with the reality that Congress had still not passed the budget for the current year–and with automatic budget cuts looming if no action is taken, it was clear that the regulatory environment in D.C. is anything but settled.
Staff from Habitat International said it best: The budget climate we were walking into was like a shrinking pie within a shrinking pie. Given the challenge of dwindling resources, we focused on using our time in D.C. to educate our representatives on the impact that Habitat’s work has on the homeowners and volunteers that we work with each day.
Our message to Congress was simple: spending cuts need not be arbitrary. We spoke of the success of the federal funding programs that Habitat affiliates utilize across the country, meeting critical housing needs and creating private investment and growth in local communities:
In the weeks since Habitat on the Hill, I have been reminded of the importance of bringing housing issues to the forefront at all levels. Whether it is in conversation with friends, colleagues, policy makers or community leaders, it is imperative that we spread the message that we at Habitat are so passionate about: safe, affordable, decent housing plays a critical role in the success of hard-working individuals, families and communities.
News in funding for affordable housing in California:
The California Homes and Jobs Act (Senate Bill 391), legislation to create a dedicated statewide source of funding for affordable housing, was introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier this week. The bill is expected to generate an average of $500 million per year to build safe and affordable homes throughout California. Click here for more information.