Volunteers are essential to the mission of CAFCH. Not only do they provide much of the labor for construction and the money to purchase the necessary supplies for that construction, they also make up a crucial component, along with the homeowners and local CAFCH allies, of the “beloved community” that CAFCH seeks to build and nurture. Most of our volunteers have limited experience with construction so they work under the watchful eye of CAFCH’s exceptional construction supervisor, Ben Williams. Ben is an omnicompetent jack of all trades when it comes to construction, and he is also a patient and skilled teacher. He excels at building volunteer’s confidence in their abilities to take on tasks amenable to their abilities and comfort levels and he teaches them carefully, with an eye to safety as well as to quality. For years, volunteers have come to trust Ben and to value his instruction highly, and he plays a significant part of the community-building successes of the affiliate.
Local volunteers are typically available for only short periods of time (i.e Saturdays or holidays) so they usually finish projects that are near completion or work on needed repairs of existing Fuller Center houses. We make every effort to ground these volunteers in the sense of mission that motivates the ministry, so that the connections they make on the worksite can continue to grow in other areas of service throughout the community.
Out of town volunteers are the lifeblood of CAFCH. The entire Delta region has been recently identified by a University of Michigan study as an area of “deep disadvantage,” meaning that social justice issues here are more involved than just sub-standard housing, though that is a critical component. Poverty is ubiquitous in the Delta, educational opportunities have been historically limited, and cooperation across racial, social class, and geographic lines has been intermittent at best. Many Deltans have “taken up their cross” in recent years to address some of these issues, but they acknowledge that outside help is always needed and appreciated and they are quick to express their appreciation of it. As a result, volunteer groups often leave inspired by what they’ve experienced as they cooperate with like-minded local folks on the worksite, at weekly potlucks, and in various educational settings.
As vital as that work is, CAFCH’s mission goes beyond construction and repair of houses. A unique part of CAFCH’s offerings to volunteers, in fact, comes outside the workplace for groups that want to take advantage of such opportunities. Half-day history tours of Coahoma County, recounting stories that explain some of why the area is so impoverished as well as the significant stories that highlight the efforts of Habitat/Fuller veterans outside construction, are one option. Real conversations with homeowners, at the potluck and in evening sessions, about their experiences growing up with Delta discrimination as well as the ways that life in Habitat/Fuller homes has had a positive impact on their lives are another option. More opportunities for learning and sharing occur through presentations made by leaders of dynamic, Fuller-allied after school programs like Spring Initiative and Griot. In all of these offerings, CAFCH seeks to educate volunteers about the dynamics behind the issues of substandard housing and deep disadvantage, and often serves to inspire volunteers to return to Coahoma County to be a part of that community-building. As of 2020, thirty such out of town volunteers have given at least a year of their lives in service to the community, and the results are mutually beneficial for all.