Habitat for Humanity carpenter Shelby Rollefson is offering free workshops at the build site on Hilchey Road aimed at empowering women to pick up tools. Karen McKinnon photo

Campbell River Habitat for Humanity volunteer looks to get more women picking up tools

Free workshops at Habitat build site on Hilchey aim to empower women

As full-time carpenter for Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North, Shelby Rollefson helps local families gain independence through affordable homeownership. But her work helping people gain skills and self-reliance doesn’t end after she clocks out for the day.

When she’s not swinging a hammer on Habitat’s Campbell River construction site, she runs her own business with the intention of providing education for those who want to maintain their home.

Be Kind Woodworking is Rollefson’s passion project, and through it she offers free classes on hand tools and home maintenance geared towards women. These workshops, which she calls ‘Empowerment Classes,’ are held on Habitat VIN’s 477 Hilchey Road construction site. Topics include understanding basic tools, using drywall anchors, installing door knobs, and minor drywall repairs.

Rollefson has experienced firsthand the confidence that comes with understanding and utilizing tools.

“Putting a tool which has only ever been advertised for men in the hands of a woman is an empowering act in itself,” she said.

Rollefson is a Journeywoman carpenter, but before starting her first construction labourer job at the age of eighteen, she had never held a power tool or taken a shop class.

“I didn’t know the difference between a nail and a screw,” admitted Rollefson, “but I ended up staying because my boss and supervisor were so supportive. They provided a wonderful environment to work in long enough for me to fall in love with working with my hands and to start developing my skills.”

While her classes aren’t affiliated with Habitat for Humanity, Rollefson hopes they will influence more women to volunteer on Habitat’s construction site.

From Rollefson’s experience, many barriers are in place preventing people from volunteering on a build site for their first time, even if some of the fears are unfounded.

“When I am trying something new, or going to a new place, I can talk myself out of it very easily for the silliest of reasons,” said Rollefson. “Not knowing where to park, walking into a place you’ve never been before, and meeting a group of people you can only hope are kind and welcoming. With all of these worries, it is much less stressful to just not go.”

She explained that these stresses can feel magnified for women.

“You can now add the additional barrier of walking into this same situation knowing you will possibly be the only woman with an entire construction site of men,” said Rollefson. “That can be very intimidating.”

Rollefson’s classes give women the opportunity to visit the construction site and begin gaining skills and confidence in a low-pressure environment with other women.

“When a woman is able to pick up a tool in her own home and fix something for herself without having to call on anyone, that’s incredibly liberating.”

To register for upcoming Empowerment Classes, contact her by email at at bekindww@gmail.com

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Habitat VIN, visit habitatnorthisland.com

Construction