I cannot begin to describe how amazing my experience with Habitat for Humanity Yukon has been. I’ll admit, while filling out the GCELE form, Yukon was my last choice. I was a little disappointed when I saw the congratulation email saying I had been chosen to join the team going to Yukon as opposed to China or Costa Rica. I remember thinking to myself, “Ugh. Yukon? It’s in Canada, it’s going to be so boring.” Boy was I wrong. The staff members and other students were such a blast to be with, I would not have wanted this trip to be any other way.
Prior to the trip, there had been several meetings for everyone to get to know each other. My initial thoughts about the group were that we were all pretty shy and that getting comfortable with each other would take a long time. Also, my perspective on Yukon, and the trip in general, was very limited. I thought that the families we would be helping would be of native descent, I thought we would be staying in tents or a run-down lodge and I thought we would be eating at McDonald’s everyday. To say the least I was pretty ignorant.
There were many things that surprised me once we were in Yukon.
I didn’t have to sleep in a tent! The Yukon Inn was much more than what I had anticipated. The beds were soft, there was never a lack of hot water in the showers and not one bug or roach in sight! The television actually had good cable too!
I also didn’t eat McDonald’s for 8 days! I remember google mapping the Yukon Inn and noticing the McDonald’s across the street thinking I’d have to eat Big Mac’s and french fries everyday. There were so many different places to eat at that every dinner was at a new restaurant. Also, the Yukon Inn had such a wide variety for breakfast that you could honestly order something new every morning.
The families that would live in the duplex home we were building were not what I had pictured. I had expected people of native descent (tanned skin, long, dark hair, custom clothing). Meeting Jeff, Tanya and Brendan made me realize that there aren’t just natives who live in Whitehorse and that there are different types of poverty. GCELE – Team Yukon!
I used more than just a hammer! I was genuinely surprised when we got to use a table saw, a sawzall, an electric miter saw, a nail gun, etc. Habitat for Humanity trusted a bunch of college students, who aren’t even studying construction, to build a house… Thankfully we had patient leaders (Jean Marc, Jerome, Nico, Brendan and Stu) to help guide us the entire time.
We lifted 600+ lbs of wood! It’s amazing what teamwork can do. I never thought that I’d have to lift roof trusses, or even being able to lift them at all.
Bannock (specifically Shawana’s bannock) is to die for.
This once in a lifetime experience has given me a broader perspective on life. It has shown me what teamwork can do. It has introduced me to some amazing people I would have never talked to on my own. It has given me a better understanding about charity vs. social justice, and that more of the latter should be done. It has taught me to keep my mind open and not be so judgemental and narrow-minded. Thank you Centennial and Habitat for Humanity for giving me this opportunity!
Below is a short video I put together highlighting our trip. And by short I mean 19 minutes.. ENJOY!
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!