During the week-long event, women devote at least one day to the effort to eliminate poverty housing.

The event is typically held the week leading up to Mother’s Day
These dates are significant to many volunteers, as families with children make up a staggering number of those in need of adequate housing.

Women Build frequently asked questions

What is the Women Build training program?
Local Habitat affiliates teach women volunteers how to construct decent, affordable housing. This training program is available in most areas. Contact womenbuild@habitat.org to find out about the next Women Build training offered in your area.

Does Habitat promote feminist issues?
We believe that decent, affordable housing is not a feminist issue. It is a quality of life and basic human dignity issue facing families everywhere.

The Women Build department of Habitat for Humanity International has one mission: empower women to take action against poverty housing conditions. The more people we can train to become effective volunteers, the better equipped we will be to fight poverty housing. Women Build brings together women from all walks of life to address in a concrete way the housing crisis facing millions of women and children across the globe.

Women Build is not about excluding men. It is about including women and opening new doors of opportunity. Men are often involved in our training programs and build projects in supportive roles and as subcontractors when women from the necessary trades are not available.

In what other ways does Women Build empower women?
Women Build supports Habitat’s advocacy programs by collecting information on the challenges that face women worldwide, particularly property rights. Women Build is exploring partnerships with several nongovernment organizations in developing countries to assist them in bringing the full rights and responsibilities of homeownership to women.

How do homeowners feel about their homes being built by women?
The homeowners are thrilled to finally have a home, and women of all ages have proven themselves capable in the construction of homes. For single mothers, a Women Build is even more empowering. Women and men alike have great respect and gratitude for the women volunteers and for the skills they acquire working side by side.

What do you do if there is a male homeowner?
Male homeowners build right alongside women volunteers.

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CARNEYS POINT TWP. — This year, Mother’s Day is particularly special for Kimberly Furbush of Salem. More than 60 people, many of them complete strangers, offered themselves as volunteers through Salem County Habitat for Humanity’s Women’s Build program to help build a new home for her and her family.
“I’m excited, overwhelmed,” explained the mother of three young daughters; eight-year-old Aryana and five-year-old twins Erica and Semone.
“I can’t really put it into words… seeing this today, I am very thankful to everyone involved,” she said.
Furbush herself is also involved and invested in her new home. As part of the Habitat program, she must put at least 225 hours of “sweat equity” into the home before the project is complete.
Nor is the project a matter of charity; Furbush is buying the home she is helping to build with zero-interest financing through Salem County Habitat for Humanity.
By October the family will have moved out of its current home in Salem City’s Chestnut Terrace and into a brand-new, three-bedroom home in the quiet little neighborhood on Highland Avenue.
“The neighborhood is beautiful,” Kimberly said. “I like the idea that the kids are going to be able to play outside and have a yard to play in.”
The job site itself was a hive of activity Saturday morning, as the group of volunteers, mostly women, undertook the initial stages of construction on the new Furbush home.
A scant few weeks ago the site was a vacant lot. By Saturday, the block work foundation was rising from a freshly dug hole. Workers moved back and forth, but concentrated around their group stations, engaged in specific tasks and under the supervision of an experienced team leader.
One of those experienced volunteers was Dave Sparks, of Carneys Point. He has been an active participant in Habitat for Humanity projects since 2005.
“I can’t really put it into words… seeing this today, I am very thankful to everyone involved.”
“I was retired, and I was looking for something to do,” he said. “The Lord touched me on the heart and said, ‘You need to build houses.’”
While it can be challenging to coordinate volunteers who often have more desire than experience, the rewards are more than worth it.
“A lot of the people we get as volunteers don’t have much construction experience, but they will all leave feeling good about what they’ve done,” he said.
“I guarantee you every one of them will drive by this house at some point after its finished and feel proud of having helped build it.”
That is the point of Women’s Build.
Sue Anne Leighty, executive director of the Salem County Habitat for Humanity chapter explained, “It’s a day about women and women doing this kind of work. It’s about skill building.”
While Women’s Build is a special event designed to get women engaged in the program, construction on the house will take all summer and will be completed by hundreds of volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life, especially students.
“We have volunteers lined up all summer,” Leighty explained. “Young people will come throughout the summer and work a phase of the build.”
Among Saturday’s volunteers was Leighty’s eight-year-old granddaughter Brynn, who along with her other grandmother, Tina Deckard of Pennsville, put in a full day together with the team.
“This is my first time,” said Deckard. “I thought this would be a great way for us to spend some time together and help a good cause.”
Brynn wasn’t shy about what she spent the day doing.
“I did some scraping and some cementing, and some shoveling,” she said. “I did everything, but I like cementing the best.”
Still, despite enjoying her time on the job site, Brynn doesn’t think there is a career in the building trades in her future.
“I don’t think that’s the right job for me,” she said. “I could break a toe, or even lose it.”
Any undertaking on the magnitude of building a home would not be at all possible however without the contributions of Habitat for Humanity’s sponsors.
Among the largest such sponsors for this project is Mannington Mills, which has donated funding, volunteer labor through the company, and will provide flooring throughout the home when it reaches that phase.
Betsy Amoroso, director of corporate communications for Mannington Mills, and chair of the Women’s Build since the program began four years ago, spent the day at the job site with her 12-year-old daughter, Julia.
“Mannington Mills has been a long-time sponsor of Habitat,” Amoroso explained. “We do this because… look around; it’s the right thing to do. Friday we had a group of women from the company come out and do block work.
“It’s just who we are,” she said.

Despite the varied backgrounds and affiliations of the volunteers, that theme of community service was common throughout.
Charlene Catalano is a math teacher at Woodstown High School and runs the school’s Students in Action committee. On Saturday she, along with her husband Curt and eight students from Woodstown High, came out to contribute their time and labor to the build.
“We’ve done this before with Students in Action,” Catalano said. “We also helped build a handicapped ramp for a Pennsgrove High School student one year.”
Catalano got involved with Habitat through Sue Anne Leighty, but the decision to participate was entirely the students’.
“The kids were very enthusiastic about the idea,” she said.
And they weren’t even getting extra credit.


Contact staff writer Phillip Tomlinson at 856-451-1000 or ptomlinson@southjerseymedia.com