I am a social worker by training and have worked for the past 10 years as Project Director of the Los Alamos chapter of Habitat for Humanity. We renovate old, abandoned and condemned housing for underprivileged families in our sprawling 230- acre community. Outsiders are often stunned to learn that our group exists or is even needed. From the outside, Los Alamos looks like a shining, new glass-and-chrome technological center. During the past decade, it has attracted dozens of new high tech and government centers that employ hundreds of scientists, engineers and computer wizards. Yet a closer inspection of the downtown area of the city reveals a mass exodus from older, less affluent neighborhoods to the glitter of upper crust suburbia. It's in this area, the lonely, shattered downtown area, that I go to work each day.
My job is at once challenging, frustrating and rewarding. Like many managers, I must wear many hats.
I am responsible for recruiting and training new volunteers, procuring building materials and the actual construction of the homes. Considering that most of our wokrers are unskilled in construction and architecture, this is always a challenge. Because many of our volunteers come to us via court orders, attendance is usually spotty. This is a frustration. Yet every 20-30 days, we complete a house and provide it free of charge to a grateful, deserving family. This is indescribably rewarding.
During this building cycle, we not only fix an abandoned house but we also revitalize a community. We bring together talented people from around the city to solve the housing problem of a single member. No one is privileged or singled out for special treatment: as time allows, everyone will get their turn for quality housing. This builds a contagious spirit of co-operation. Neighbors get involved, providing...