Habitat: Helping the Community - Braelin Yarborough ‘24

Friday, October 8, 2021

Hello, my name is Braelin Yarborough, and I am currently a second year Levine Scholar. This past summer I had the opportunity to intern with Habitat for Humanity, and wanted to share a bit about my experience. Habitat is usually a popular choice of internship preference for scholars and I was very excited to know that I had been selected for an interview with Habitat for my second summer Levine experience. Once I interviewed with Habitat and learned even more about the nuts and bolts of day-to-day activities, I was all-in and was ecstatic to hear when things moved forward to solidifying the internship.

During the internship, I had the opportunity to see many different aspects of Habitat, but as an Engineering major, I was so excited to be part of any building teams. After expressing interest in this particular area to my supervisor, I was paired with working on the Critical Home Repair Team. Habitat’s Critical Home Repair Teams go into houses of those who cannot afford the necessary repairs to make the house more livable. These homes are often older and were either built insufficiently or have just been worn down by everyday use. The most common places that get attention are the roof, the floor and subfloor, the kitchen, and the bathrooms. As you can tell, most of these areas are either exposed to or are in the vicinity of water, which can often be traced as the culprit to the decay of that area. The Critical Home Repair Teams often did most of the work, but some things inevitably needed to be contracted out. The contract work was often the roofing, plumbing, and electrical work. Given the Critical Team was responsible for everything else though, I learned a good bit about house renovation. I can now completely remove and replace a floor and subfloor, completely renovate a kitchen and bathroom, and many other small aspects of home repair. These skills came with a further knowledge of how to use certain tools and which ones fit a job best. I not only learned hard skills, but also more about Charlotte and the community Habitat serves. My main realization was just how much Habitat does, with limited resources, within the community.

One of the main projects I was a part of was a total revamp of a home. What, you say goes into this? Well, a lot. First, we tore up the flooring and subfloor from the bathroom because it was rotten and sunk in when you stepped on it. We then replaced the subfloor and recut the shower, toilet and sink holes. Then we built out the wall to fit the new shower and drywalled around the shower. Next, we put in the vanity and the plumbers installed the new toilet. The tile flooring and surrounding trim was then laid around the bathroom. Lastly, we painted the trim and walls to finish up the bathroom. We then repeated this process in the larger master bathroom in the same house. Next, we removed everything from the kitchen floor to the hanging cabinets. Then, we replaced the floor and wall cabinets with new cabinets and laid new flooring. To finish off the interior of the house, we put down new flooring and trim in the living room and painted the trim. Moving to the outside, we painted the back porch, replaced the roof facia board, and added a new screen door. This project all together took about 20 days to complete, which in the grand scheme of things is pretty incredible. This process is one part of the experience, but the gratitude and life-changing experience for the homeowner is something completely different.

Overall, I think that everyone should at least try one Habitat build, because it will push you outside of your comfort zone, which often leads to you discovering that you can accomplish things you never imagined. It also provides a connection to the community in Charlotte that is very unrepresented and is easily overlooked when it is not the neighborhoods and areas in which most people interact with on a daily basis. I personally can’t wait for the next volunteer opportunity to work with Habitat outside of my internship experience.