My Habitat Experience: Laura Belford

My name is Laura Belford, and I am 23 years old. I am a concurrent education student at Queen’s University, a music lover, and a summer Event Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga. I am also a survivor of final stage Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. When I finished my cancer treatment, which consisted of chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries, my hands were so damaged and weak that I couldn’t tie my own shoes anymore.

I was very grateful to have people in my life who both literally and metaphorically tied my shoelaces for me throughout my recovery. On July 10th, I celebrated one year of being cured of cancer, and that day my hands and I worked on one of our local build sites.

Having the opportunity to use the power tools and create something tangible, something that not too long ago I couldn’t have dreamed of doing, was special and empowering. For this reason, If I had to sum up my experience at Habitat thus far in only one word, empowering is likely the word I would choose.

My role as Event Coordinator has been such an incredible experience because every day looks different. Some days you’ll find me in business casual wear, chipping away at reports and budget plans, and other days I’m in a hard hat and work boots learning how to use a nail gun. We recently had an event where I needed to organize over 100 hard hats. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I reached out to other summer students to help. We ended up having a lot of fun making a hard hat assembly line. In a way, my co-workers “tied my shoelaces” by supporting me and helping me to prepare for such a big event.

Each day here is a new adventure and the variety keeps me engaged. Summer jobs can sometimes carry the reputation of being unfulfilling; more of a necessity to fill the space between years of school, rather than an exciting opportunity. That couldn’t be further from the case with my job at Habitat. Anyone who has talked to me in the past two months knows how genuinely thrilled I am about working here and what a blessing it has been.

Although my future career will likely have me trading in donor thank you cards for report cards, and event plans for lesson plans, I could not think of a better job experience as I approach teachers college. I’m not working in a classroom, or even working with kids, and yet I know my role at Habitat has given me strengths that will be transferable to any future endeavours.The people I work with are so wonderful, and they have instilled confidence in me to seek out ways to improve existing systems, try new things, and think outside of the box. All of these practices are vital towards leading a successful classroom and spearheading change in the education system.

Working on affordable housing initiatives has further opened my eyes to the need for equitable housing, and illustrated the difference giving a “hand up” can make in someone else’s life. The atmosphere of compassion and reaching solutions through teamwork that is so prevalent in this workplace is something I definitely aspire to bring to my future classrooms.

Working at Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga has been much more than a summer job to me, it has been a vehicle for growth, learning and empowerment. I am so thankful to be apart of an organization that is committed to bettering lives and communities. As I said before, my experience with Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga has been empowering. I’ve been given a space where I feel comfortable challenging myself and trying new things, and working alongside people who are supportive and driven. The attitude here is that when an obstacle presents itself, all hands are on deck to find a solution. That’s what makes this affiliate both successful, and a wonderful place to work.

It is really special to be able to drive by our build sites and see the tangible, traceable progress that results from the work of all our volunteers and staff. With every foundation laid and wall built, we get closer to a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Habitat for Humanity empowers families to realize their dreams of homeownership, and working here has empowered me to continue striving to “tie the shoelaces” of my future students, friends and everyone in my life.

By Laura Belford