Thursday, 21 May 2009

Building Homes - Leading Women into Construction: Part 2

Photo: Elida Huignard at a volunteer shift during the Women Build BlitzPhoto: Elida Huignard at a volunteer shift during the Women Build Blitz
2009 ©

President Wo-Built Inc. Elida Huignard: My experience volunteering with Habitat for Humanity as part of the team for the Toronto Womens’ Blitz in May, 2009 - Part 2
When I arrived, the site already had a lot of houses being built by Daniels that were almost complete. Eight houses were to be built during the blitz, with the foundations completed and some corner panels for the 1st floor on. See photo. We were required to put all the tools and supplies from pencils to saws, from caulking guns to ladders, and safety equipment etc. in 4 different containers inside, in front of each group of semidetached houses. A lot of care was taken to put everything into an orderly manner so that the crew leaders in each shift were able to find everything easily.

At this time I noticed another team working at installing wall panels. I put in a request to switch teams so that I would be able to see some new techniques on the actual panel installation. The Sip panels used at the Hartford site are a sandwich of chip board with a Styrofoam core that simplifies the construction of the standard balloon-frame construction and has an intrinsic insulating value. This method of installation was different from the process that I was familiar with. Tom, our team leader put a lot of care in showing me how to handle the panels so that they did not get damaged, how to check the level and maintain them temporarily in position. Our team consisted of Tom, our crew leader, myself - a woman with a lot of experience in construction and 3 young men with no experience in construction at all. We prepared the posts that are installed in between panels which consisting in lots of hammering. We were shown nail removal skills, how to use a lot of sealant and got absolutely filthy with the caulking gun because we were not familiar with this particular type. We then had to use the sledge hammer to jam the panels into place and to take out some of our frustrations as well. At end of the day I realized that although I had been quite smug about not needing any training to go on site, I had learned quite a few different methods in the DIY area.

The following day I attended a dinner meeting with all the other female crew leaders and house leaders. It was a fun affair, and although it was a simple serve on picnic tables at the site, we were all required to wear our safety boots and hats. During the meeting the organizers and site supervisors clarified for us how to guide the volunteers assigned to us towards a successful experience during the blitz. We were also shown a finished semi-detached home to demonstrate what we were going to help build. When we realized the enormity of the task at hand – building 4 homes complete with a roof structure and windows with a group of people who had little or no experience - our doubts and fears were quickly dissipated and our questions
were answered during the Question and Answer period.

Afterwards, when chatting with Tom and his wife Laura, also crew leaders, I was delighted to discover they had just arrived from Argentina, my country of origin, where they had been trekking through the glaciers in Patagonia and also through Buenos Aires. It truly is a small world!

Elida Huignard
Wo-Built Inc.

Look for our next instalment of this amazing experience in future postings on our forum.

Habitat for Humanity Toronto - The Women Build Blitz - May 1-9, 2009
Wo-Built Inc. Partners With Habitat for Humanity Toronto's Women Build Initiative
Wo-Built Inc.: Building Homes - Leading Women into Construction: Part 1

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