Words cannot describe how amazing and humbling my experience with Habitat for Humanity PEI has been. This past week, I had the opportunity to work alongside some of Centennial College’s most hard-working, respectful and hilarious staff and students whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet outside of being selected for the GCELE. Additionally, I had the chance to meet and work with some of Habitat for Humanity’s most dedicated and inspiring employees and volunteers.
Prior to this GCELE trip, I had attended a HFH volunteer orientation session in Toronto a couple of years ago. I didn’t commit to any builds at the time so I wasn’t sure of what to expect on this trip to PEI. With this trip, I was thrown into close living quarters with 13 strangers. We had little Internet access, very few hours of screen time, communal accommodations and a structured schedule set by Habitat for Humanity.
Here are some things that I learned while on this GCELE:
- Hearing individuals’ stories of hardship and perseverance make way for personal reflection and feelings of gratitude. One of the restaurants we went to during the week was Sadat’s Cuisine in Charlottetown. The Sadat family of seven came to PEI as refugees in 2007 (article here). And with the help of Habitat for Humanity, the Sadat family was built the biggest home on PEI to date to accommodate their large family. While Said Akbar Sadat was telling his family’s heart wrenching story about coming to Canada and starting over, his voice was filled with love and appreciation for the kindness and gifts they’ve received.
- Teamwork, pitching in and cooperation are vital interpersonal skills – especially when drywalling! We were there to help build a house for a family in need – there was no room for people to slack off and not participate in the daily tasks assigned.
- You are bound to experience discomfort and inconveniences – you’ve just got to suck it up and stick it out! I can confidentially say that I had the most mosquito bites of our group on this trip. My left eyelid was swollen for the first half of the trip with a bug bite below my brow line and one under my eye making me look like a female Quasimodo without the hunchback. Showers, bathroom and the kitchen were shared spaces so you had to be mindful of others. There may be snorers amongst the people that you’re sharing a room. Your everyday comforts and luxuries are not always readily available, so find better ways to spend your time. Another takeaway from this point? Bring lots of insect repellent and ear plugs.
I had a wonderful time in PEI and I am so grateful to have experienced it through Centennial’s amazing GCELE program. From my experience, Islanders are very friendly and gracious people. The lifestyle there is very relaxed compared to Toronto and there’s very little traffic on the roads. There’s a strong sense of community and pride in PEI… I mean it is the birthplace of Canada after all.
Children’s Media post-graduate program
PEI TEAM #2
The last blog I wrote I talked about specific experiences that were very valuable in my learning throughout my trip in PEI. This one is more about what Habitat is all about and the learning that I experienced personally. First off Habitat for Humanity is a not for profit organization that helps families that are in need of affordable housing. To qualify you must make a certain amount of money a year, put in 500 hours of volunteer work for Habitat and the family also pays a mortgage back to Habitat for Humanity and that money goes to making another Habitat house for another family. That is pretty incredible in my mind because the families put in the time and buy paying the mortgage of there house Habitat is able to provide other families with the same opportunities to fit their needs.
Personally I did not know what to expect going on a GCELE for Habitat for Humanity within Canada. There are differences in culture even in the same country! Their highways are different, their traffic lights are different, the air is different and the people are different. They are so relaxed, calm and friendly. You hardly ever go out without seeing someone you know. I personally like this small tight community because I am a very friendly and social person who loves to talk. There was a lot more physical work than I expected! Our team and myself personally pushed ourselves above and beyond what I thought I and our team was capable of. I never envisioned myself shingling a roof. That was an incredible and confidence boosting experience. It was also an emotional and mental roller coaster. We had to learn how to work with others who come from all different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. We also lived in very close proximity to each other for 8 days which can be tough having little privacy. Being able to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to get out of bed even when I was exhausted and sore was hard. But something I always said throughout this trip was that this trip was not about me. Every time I said that I was able to move forward. I became mentally and emotionally stronger because I was tired, sore and still worked. If you got hurt we would stop pull ourselves together and keep going. That’s just how our team worked. We worked so well as a team and their is no other group of people I would of rather built this house with than them.
Thank you to Centennial College, Habitat for Humanity PEI and all the people that made this trip possible. I truly learned a lot and can proudly and confidently say I am a stronger person physically, mentally and emotionally.
This is just a little video I put together about my team and I on our trip and the experiences we had the opportunity to have!
Habitat for Humanity PEI
GCELE PEI Team 1
Early Childhood Education Program
Being chosen to go on a GCELE within Canada – PEI I did not really understand why in Canada as I did not see absolute poverty in Canada which was my idea of poverty. Although Canada has a lot of relative poverty such as living pay check to pay check. After meeting the family at the welcome dinner I started to understand why I was here. Erika (the mother) also wrote us the letter below which was so nice to read after meeting her.
I realized that this trip was not about me but to serve others. I still had not seen the awe factor of what my hard work was going to do for a family to its full extent until Day 4.
Journal entry Day 4,
Erika and Alyannah (the family we were building a house for) showed up this afternoon to see the progress on the house and they were so happy. When I asked Alyannah (the child) where her room was she would run to her window inside and say look this is my room banging on the window with such a big smile on her face. That was worth it all, to see her face was incredible. Aly asked me if we could go out back to see the work we had done on her house so I went with her. I brought her back inside and Erika came up to me and said thank you so much. She was like I am just going to give you a hug. That was absolutely amazing to be apart of.
This encounter/entry made me realize what we were doing was giving a family such joy, hope, safety and love. They were so thankful by the end of the week of what our team had accomplished. We built the entire foundation of her two bed room, one bathroom home. At the end of the week the family and Habitat for Humanity PEI thanked us with a thank you dinner. Erika and Alyannah were so thankful! Alyannah gave us each one of these unique frames below with a map of PEI on it. Alyannah had drew a heart on it where we built her house. It was absolutely precious to see her face and for such a shy little girl at the beginning of the week to come out of her shell and love us so much!
Myself and Erika top left, Myself and Alyannah top right, and the thank you gift from Alyannah on the bottom.
Habitat for Humanity PEI
GCELE PEI Team 1
Early Childhood Education Program