Building homes, building a community

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time at the Habitat for Humanity build site at the corner of Westgate and Dalton roads.

It was a sunny day, and the site was busy, as Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North (HHVIN) staff members, volunteers from the community and students and instructors from North Island College’s carpentry foundation program moved around the site, everyone with a job to do.

It’s an amazing sight to observe. Everyone knows what they’re doing and everyone is helping one another; there’s a lot of focus but also a lot of smiles and laughter. There are experienced volunteers working with younger volunteers, and looking around, it feels like there’s a real sense of teamwork here.

A group of people from different backgrounds — there are probably close to 20 people at the site on this day — have all come together for one reason: to build homes for deserving families. A duplex is being built here for two families — Melissa Hamstra and her children, Johnus and Tateum; and Ben and Maggie McGrath and their children Journey, Bo and Halle.

It’s exciting to think of the life that will be going into these houses once they’re built and all the memories these young families will get to make here.

Last Tuesday when I went to the site, there was already a foundation on the property, and volunteers were working to get reading to put the floors on. It really looks like the beginning of a house.

And it really feels like community. So many people are playing a part in making this a reality.

Along with the volunteers who are actually swinging hammers, there are the groups and businesses who help supply lunch for the volunteers, as well as the people who donate to and shop at the ReStore, which helps raise money for HHVIN’s operating costs. As well, area businesses have helped prepare the land, and the City of Campbell River donated the land.

And then there are the families themselves. This really is a partnership, as the families that are chosen for a new home must complete 500 hours of labour, called sweat equity, in lieu of a cash down payment. These families work hard, and the community works hard for them. These families are empowered and given a chance to own their own safe, well-made home.

It’s an amazing thing that HHVIN and all the people who support Habitat for Humanity are doing, and I know there are another four families in the Campbell River area who have qualified to partner with HHVIN and are eager to get going on their own amazing journey to home ownership whenever land becomes available for additional builds.

Peter Sanderson, the build co-ordinator for HHVIN, told me that by the end of this build, 800 to 1,000 people will have been involved.

How incredible that so many hands are helping turn the dream of home ownership into a reality for the Hamstras and the McGraths and giving these young children such a bright future.

If you’d like to add your hands to the mix, HHVIN is still looking for volunteers, as they will start framing the houses next week and will need more people helping out onsite.

Anyone interested in volunteering can register online at and pick the dates they would like to help out on the calendar.


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