My name is Ashley Singh. I am 30 years old, born and raised in Milton, ON. Back in 2003, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in 2003. My high school was not equipped with an elevator so I sat downstairs in the front hall while my teachers brought my work to me. This is one of the reasons why I did not complete high school.
In the early part of last winter, I found myself at a friend’s house. She’s about my age. Her house was beautiful! It had a two-car garage, with two luxury vehicles in the driveway, and the home was furnished with expensive pieces of furniture, and you could tell the home was cleaned by a professional. I was thrown back. I thought to myself, I could totally have this if I just take the right steps and work hard. By Christmas, I had made the decision that I was going to apply to school in the new year.
In January, I registered at an Adult-Ed school called Gary Allan High School in Milton. I decided that I would take a three-credit co-op. This means I would need to do 110 hours for each credit, for a total of 330 volunteer hours. After meeting with my teacher, I was told I could have an opportunity to complete my hours at the Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga ReStore in Milton.
I have always been aware of Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga’s work in the community. I knew they built homes for low-income families, and they have a ReStore in Milton, but that’s about it. I remember my Interview with Shannon the Volunteer Coordinator. I was a little nervous, but all I knew though was to just be myself. After the interview, Shannon asked when I could start. I was over the hill! I really wanted to be a part of Habitat Halton-Mississauga. Why? Because it represents what I believe in, and who I am as a person. Habitat is a community full of compassionate individuals who want to help in all areas of the organization.
My first shift volunteering at Habitat for Humanity as a co-op student was fantastic! I walked in and immediately was greeted by all who were wearing green shirts (volunteer shirts). I was looking for Cait, the Store Manager. I was told to look for her when I got to the store. When I found her, she introduced herself and was excited to get me started. Cait gave me a tour of the store, showed me where the Health and Safety station is, introduced me to everyone, and asked me what I’d like to do around the store. I let her know that I enjoy organizing, and cleaning! Cait asked if I could help organize the aisles, and I said: “not a problem!”. I got right to it. While I was working that first day I knew right away I was in the right place, friendly people with hearts full of gold.
Every day I am at the ReStore, I always go straight to the aisles and start cleaning up the hooks, and shelves. I feel that presentation and organization in a store are extremely important. I like to make sure that everything is presentable, easy to see, and accessible. I always think about if I was shopping this is how I would like to see the merchandise presented. I have been asked to create two displays in the store. I took two cubed shaped sofa chairs and put one on each side of the side table. I also put some books, two coffee cups, and a little artificial plant on the table. My vision was to create a comfortable idea for the use of these chairs and table. When completed, Cait and the rest of the team were very impressed with my vision and asked if I could make another display. It was nice to know that my skills and ideas are valued at the ReStore.
Habitat isn’t just a non-profit charity. Habitat is a family-oriented environment, with no judgment, and so much support. We all have one common goal at the end of the day. The ReStores generate income for our primary focus, our home build projects. I love working in team environments, and I get to do that every day with Habitat. It has boosted my confidence, and it has helped me realize that I have so much to offer. A few weeks have passed, and I am absolutely loving my time at the ReStore. I enjoy working with the other volunteers and seeing our regular customers. This experience has been nothing but amazing! It’s everything I support.
Habitat for Humanity is not just about building affordable homes in our communities. They are also about building people. In my case, it was through co-op. The ReStore has been a muse in my schooling, and life. Habitat for Humanity means so much to me. The people I work with are amazing individuals, and I am happy to call the Milton ReStore my family.