Doing volunteer work with the community organization, Habitat for Humanity
When I came back from Haiti in 2006, I was happy to learn that the organization Habitat for Humanity was present and active in the Moncton area of New Brunswick (Canada). In committing myself to do volunteer work with the building team, I could make my contribution in the service of my local environment. I felt this would really be in keeping with the Acts of the Chapter 2004: ‘‘We have chosen to follow Jesus who sided with the weakest. This choice requires us to live our charism in a way that is adapted to today’s needs.’’
Habitat for Humanity is an organization created to help build homes for low-income families. The Management Committee meets the family to present the project and the procedure it will follow to carry it out. These houses are always built in a middle class environment on land donated by the city or town. Most of the building material is also donated by the different local commercial businesses. The future owners are required to give 500 hours of free service during the construction of the house, such as cleaning up, for example. Habitat does the landscaping needed and provides a convenient driveway when the construction and painting are completed. The organization then decides with the family what will be a reasonable monthly rent payment, given its yearly income. For this purpose, the owners will receive help and formation on how to manage their finances. And, regardless of the amount they will have been able to pay, the house will be theirs in 25 years.
In 2010, with the sale of our Provincial House, the Sisters moved from Moncton to Riverview. Two of them (Irene Amirault and Marie Saulnier), who were still in good health, had time to spare and they felt the call to do something for the poor. I therefore introduced them to the Management Committee and thus they began their volunteer work at the store.
At the beginning of March, Irene felt the time had come for her to retire. She had been present at the Book Section of the store every Tuesday for over five years. In recognition of the wonderful work she had done during that time, the Management Committee organized a barbecue for the volunteers on April 8th with special invitation to Irene.
Marie and I accompanied her, without letting her know what was going to happen. We were all happy to be together and sharing this appetizing lunch when, all of a sudden, the manager got up and called Irene as if he had something to show her. She got up and, to her surprise, he presented her with a certificate of gratitude and a bouquet of flowers for her faithful and excellent service. She was rather overwhelmed but accepted his kind words with her usual simplicity. We all rejoiced at this friendly gesture and heartily applauded the manager. Hopefully, Marie and I will be able to continue this volunteer service for at least a few more years.