ANAHOLA — The misty weather and threat of rain from the heavy, overhanging clouds determined the work flow Wednesday at the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity’s home sites.
“Today, the crew is installing drywall, trimming windows and working on siding,” said Leslie Bell of Alaska, a leader for the 22-member Global Village team working on the project. “Seven of our team, including team leader Bob Bell, are in Kekaha with the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity’s Repair and Renovation project.”
Jessica Clabo, the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator, said it received an amazing gift during the holidays by having the Global Village team come to Kaua‘i.
The Bell’s have led 43 Global Village build teams around the world, including previous trips to Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity starting in 1996, Clabo said in an email.
Bob McNamara, the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity construction supervisor, said he worked with the Bell’s during a build in Nepal where a team of 200 volunteers put together more than 30 houses over a 10-day span.
The team led by Leslie and Bob Bell started arriving on Kaua‘i on Christmas Day and have scheduled work through Friday at both the Anahola home sites where three homes are under construction, and in Kekaha where the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity is working on a renovation build.
“My very first time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity was on Kaua‘i in 1996,” Leslie said. “Since then, we’ve been back four times, three times as team leaders.”
Leslie said in the group of 22 volunteers, eight are first-timers, including several from Alaska, with the Habitat for Humanity program.
During the couple’s 16-year tenure with the Global Village and Habitat for Humanity program, they have been to many places around the world, including Nepal where they worked with McNamara, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, Fiji, Papua, New Guinea, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.
“A lot of the trips were for disaster response, and there have been a rash of them,” Leslie said. “We were traveling on six builds a year. A typical year has us traveling just twice.”
She said a lot of the destinations are based on Habitat for Humanities criteria for poverty housing, Alaska being rated in the top three for housing need.
“Raising awareness if our biggest job,” Leslie said. “We not only raise houses, we raise awareness.”
Based on the Habitat criteria, Leslie said Kaua‘i is not the worst, but is in pretty bad shape in terms of the need for housing.
She said the criteria is based on how many people exceed the 3:1 ratio, where one third of their income is spent on housing as the mean.
Other criteria include unsafe neighborhoods for raising children or unsafe or unhealthy housing.
“Kaua‘i is pretty much buffered against the unsafe homes because of the extended families and the fact that weather doesn’t get below freezing,” Leslie said. “In Alaska, there are people who are living in poor housing with no heat or electricity. That is all right, but when the weather drops below freezing, water freezes, the sewer backs up and creates unsafe and unhealthy living conditions, or people freeze to death.”
She said the criteria is important to Global Village team members who raise their own funds to make the trips.
“The better job the affiliate (Habitat for Humanity) does, the easier it is for Global Village members to fundraise, using the Habitat’s website as a base,” Leslie said.
“Some host dinners, wine tasting parties, make quilts to raffle, or simply, hit people up, individually. They all come up with their own funds for the trip.”
Arriving on Christmas Day, the team rolled up its sleeves and were on the job Dec. 26, working through New Year’s Eve when they had a break to enjoy the North Shore. New Year’s Day was spent in Koke‘e, and on Jan. 2, the group was back at it, working until Friday afternoon when they will be hosted to a mahalo party at Po‘ipu Beach Park before leaving Saturday.
“This is an odd time to travel,” Leslie said. “On the good side, this is a perfect opportunity to work with first-time Global Village volunteers because many of the places are on vacation and people take advantage of that to either come out and help, or travel.”
Leslie said on the heels of their departure, another Global Village team, a single leader and smaller group, is scheduled to arrive Saturday.
Clabo said Kaua‘i residents are always welcome to come out and meet Global Village team builders who are also anxious to meet and learn about the island.
She said lei and entertainment contributions for the visiting volunteer team are also being accepted by calling 335-0296 ext. 152.
Clabo said the mahalo party is traditional with the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity when a Global Village group visits.
“This is an opportunity for people to say ‘thank you’ to each volunteer for their service efforts, which support our community,” Clabo said.
“Friday’s mahalo party starts at 4 p.m. at the Po‘ipu Beach Park with the meal being served starting at 5 p.m.”
Milani Pimental, the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity’s director of development, said Kaua‘i Habitat has built affordable homes for Kaua‘i’s community for 20 years — wherever land, building materials, volunteers, funds and partner families come together.
It celebrated its 20th anniversary Saturday with a day-long shindig at its Hanapepe ReStore facility with store specials, appearances by local dignitaries and entertainment.
Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity offers two main programs for qualified low-income residents: New Affordable Home Construction Program and its Repair and Renovation Program.
In Anahola, three new homes are under construction with another five to follow in 2014, along with one in Kekaha, states a Kaua‘i Habitat release.
Infrastructure work is taking place on the ‘Ele‘ele Iluna subdivision, the site of the next 107 Habitat homes.
The Repair and Renovation Program was launched in 2011 in an effort to reclaim substandard housing with interest in the program growing each day, and with additional grant funding, is allowing for program expansion.
Visit www.kauaihabitat.org for more information.
To volunteer and meet any of the Global Village people call Clabo at 335-0296 ext. 152.