Sunday, August 16, 2015

Join us for the 2015 Women Build with Habitat for Humanity GTA #WBGTA

The work of Habitat for Humanity is close to my heart, and I have a particular soft spot for the organisation's Women Build events. In September I will be volunteering on my third Women Build, and I want to encourage all of you to consider getting involved, whether by building, donating, or helping to spread the word.

What does Habitat do? Well, they provide access to affordable, clean and safe housing for families who can't otherwise obtain it. Habitat partner families are screened to ensure they meet criteria, and to ensure they will be able to keep up mortgage payments moving forward. This is something I think is really important - Habitat for Humanity isn't about hand-outs.  It's about giving a "hand up" and involving partner families in the construction process. Families contribute a minimum of 500 hours of "sweat equity" to the project, and in the process learn new skills and gain a sense of agency. Homes are sold to the families with a no down payment, no interest mortgage and repayments are geared to income.

Why is this needed? According to Social Planning Toronto, one in three Toronto children under the age of 15 lives in poverty. Many of these children are living in overcrowded and unsafe housing situations, which can have serious physical and mental health implications. Children in overcrowded or unfit accommodations are 30% more likely than other children to suffer respiratory problems such as breathing difficulties, asthma and bronchitis. They are also more likely to experience disturbed sleep, poor diet, anxiety, depression and behavioural problems. Bad housing affects children’s ability to learn at school or study at home, leading to lower academic achievements. As a mom, I want to help do something about this, and so I got involved.

Of course I could choose to volunteer in any number of ways with Habitat for Humanity, including on general build days. But I love the Women Build because of the amazing sense of sisterhood embracing the build site on those days. The energy and positivity is amazing. These builds bring women together for a common cause, teach them new skills, and show them just how powerful they are. I see women come in almost afraid to swing a hammer, and by the end of the day they are confidently using the table saw. You don't need any special skills, experience, or equipment to participate. Experts are on hand to show you the ropes, and you won't be asked to do any task that makes you uncomfortable. You just need to show up with your energy and enthusiasm, plus a willingness to get dirty and have fun.
Most of my 2014 team. What a day we had!
To date, Women Builds have taken place in over 30 countries across the world. Here in Toronto, the first Women Build was in 2009, fundraising for and building 16 homes in Scarborough. In 2015, Women Build GTA participants will be helping to construct 33 town homes in Scarborough and Brampton, plus one detached home in Newmarket. I'll be back at the Brimley Rd. site in Scarborough, doing finishing work on town homes we started last year. Actually, I'll be there twice - building on September 19, and emceeing the event on September 16. I can't wait!!
They make sure all participants are well-fed and supplied with snacks throughout the day.
This year's goal is to bring together 1000 women over the 3 sites and to raise $1 million total. All funds raised go directly to the builds. 100%!  This is possible because sales in the Habitat ReStores cover all administrative and fundraising costs. As of today we have raised just over $100,000, so we have a ways to go. We also are looking for more volunteers for the build days. York Region (Newmarket) is full, but there are shifts available in both Scarborough and Brampton (September - October dates). Participants can register online, and agree to spend one day on the build site and to raise a minimum of $500. The experience really is incredible and is for a very important cause - creating safe, affordable, and comfortable homes for families in our communities.

If you are in the GTA I encourage you to consider volunteering for one of these builds (or check with your local Habitat affiliate!)  You can also support the cause by making a donation, or by helping to spread the word. Read about it and share the Women Build information with your family and friends - you never know who might want to join in!

If you'd like to make a donation to support my team's efforts, here is our team page: Hard Hats & High Heels. For more information on the builds, please visit

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