Building a Future

Women take up tools for less fortunate.

The cool Molokai breeze, a homemade lunch, camaraderie and the chance to do some good buoyed the enthusiasm of 16 women helping to build a house on a weekend when temperatures nudged the 80s.

Sporting red shirts, tool belts and hammers last Saturday, they were volunteering to build a house in Kamalo for Philip Vanderstraeten, who was selected by Habitat for Humanity to receive affordable housing.          

This day was near the end of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week – an event that challenges women to learn and execute building techniques to help eliminate poverty housing.

“Our goal is to end homelessness,” said Emillia Noordhoek, resource development director of Molokai Habitat for Humanity. “[Women Build] encourages women to develop building skills, gain confidence with tools, and make a difference.”

Following an instructional skill and safety lesson, the volunteers were turned loose to work

on the foundation of the 700-square-foot house, constructing base blocks to support its frame. For this project, the Habitat crew will be using its first bamboo house kit – sustainable ready-made housing sets that take roughly one week to build.

Bamboo is a fast-growing and cost-effective alternative to chopping down forests, and is gaining popularity in the construction of homes.

Noordhoek said the kit will arrive in June, putting the completion date less than two weeks later. It will be Habitat’s first completely off-the-grid house on Molokai, incorporating solar, wind power and other renewable architecture.

Volunteering for Fun
Although the end result will be nothing short of gratifying, it’s the experience that some say is most rewarding.

“I never knew volunteering would be so fun,” said Vanderstraeten, who also said he never thought he’d be on the receiving end.

“Three years of camping gets old,” he added. “Now I have a house to live in and opportunity to give back to the community.”

Families selected by Habitat for Humanity are required to help in the construction of their homes, and others, equaling 400 to 500 hours of “sweat equity.” Applicants are also chosen based on their income level and ability to pay a zero-interest mortgage and taxes. Molokai currently has eight to 10 families lined up to receive new homes.

Moani Melcher, a single mother of three, will begin construction of her new home by next year. She and her three daughters were at the Kamalo site on Saturday, volunteering their time and hands with a generous spirit.

“I’m honored to be apart of such a unique experience,” Melcher said. “It’s the best thing; you make relationships with people.”

Melcher was “stunned” to learn that she was a chosen recipient, adding it was just “too good to be true.”

“It’s going to have a great impact on my life and the future of my kids,” she said. “I was unable to do it by myself. This could’ve never occurred if it weren’t for Habitat.”

Besides building brand new homes for clients, the program on Molokai plans to incorporate a “rehab for homes,” where run-down houses will be rehabilitated or upgraded for qualified applicants.

About Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build affordable homes for low-income families around the world. Molokai became an affiliate in 1998 and is the only branch to serve poverty-stricken families on the island.

Women Build Day developed out of a partnership between Lowe’s and Habitat for Humanity, and is celebrating its third year on Molokai. The outpour of women volunteers has not only highlighted the program’s success, but that on the Friendly Isle, a good deed knows no gender.


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