Munira is a dedicated Habitat volunteer that got started with us through the Canada Summer Jobs program. Initially, a member of the Volunteer Services team, Munira is now a placement student with our Real Estate Development department by way of her university’s urban planning program. We had a chance to sit down with her recently to learn more about her Habitat GTA experience.
1. How did you first learn about Habitat for Humanity GTA?
Before working with Habitat GTA, it was an organization I was familiar with, only by name. I knew about their work and how it related to providing affordable homes to families in need of decent housing. It was not until the summer of last year that I came across a construction site near my own home with a sign indicating that it was a Habitat build, which really piqued my interest. I began to look into the different projects that were both ongoing and completed only to find out about how many Habitat homes actually existed in my area. I had no clue nor was I able to distinguish them from market value homes.
2. What motivated you to pursue a Canada Summer Jobs placement with Habitat for Humanity GTA?
As an urban planning student, I have been introduced to the topic of affordable housing many times, but only ever through theory. Specializing in the provision and process of actually achieving affordable housing was something I was yet to experience or understand. I learned about the Canada Summer Jobs program opportunity from my uncle who told me it was an initiative to help students gain experience and earn money in their field. I was hooked and from that moment on I just kept an eye out for job postings that were related to my field of interest until I found just what I was looking for with Habitat GTA.
3. What did you do as a member of the Volunteer Services team?
Under the volunteer services team I was introduced to all aspects of the volunteer experience. From recruitment to site coordinating, I was even putting on a hard hat and safety boots some days and joining the volunteers in helping build homes. Being a part of the team, I realized all the different people and things that go into keeping account of the thousands of volunteers which gave me an all-encompassing understanding of what it takes to keep the organization active.
4. What did you learn about the non-profit sector and volunteerism through your experience?
I learned about how a non-profit organization is able to continue operating and the creativity involved in achieving goals with limited budgets and resources. All members of the non-profit sector from employees to volunteers must be and are very dedicated to the cause they work for. That energy is what fuels the motivation within people to put in the time and work necessary to fulfill their roles.
5. How did you find yourself back at Habitat as a placement student with our Real Estate Development Team?
One of the pleasant things about Habitat GTA is the office culture. All departments are very friendly and interactive with one another. So even though you may be sitting at one end of the office, you definitely get talking to all people in different roles. That is how I ended up connecting with the real estate development team and sharing my interest in getting familiar with the work they do. I was able to reach out to them once my new school year began and worked out a time to start coming into the office and getting the practical experience I was searching for.
6. How has your Habitat for Humanity GTA experience prepared you for the workforce?
In every team I have been a part of there has always been so much support and opportunity for growth offered. I received supervision and guidance when necessary, but was empowered to work independently. That level of autonomy and trust boosted my confidence and reassured my ability to produce high quality and genuine work. The experience I had and continue having has elevated my standards and expectations for how to treat people so I could foster those same traits and emotions in every person I work with.
7. What new skills have you learned?
I have learned a lot of new and useful hard skills such as; databasing, formula application on excel, and report consolidation. Besides technical skills, I also learned a lot of soft skills working in an environment and department that heavily depended on it. Knowing when to apply the appropriate ability in interacting with people goes a long way and is a core part of developing strong communication skills. Keeping an open mind, being flexible, patient, and understanding are traits that lead to better judgment in decision making because of the wisdom I gained in actively listening and participating in social settings.
8. What have you learned about yourself since getting involved with Habitat for Humanity GTA?
Studying in a program that emphasizes a lot of group work, getting involved with Habitat GTA allowed me to realize my capability of working independently even though I am more used to working in a team. This also led to a self-discovery regarding my personality. I would not normally classify myself as an extrovert, but through all the public situations I’ve been thrown into on the volunteer services team, I have become much more comfortable and confident in social settings and interacting with large groups of people.
9. Do you have any stories from your experience(s) that stick with you that you can share?
One of my most memorable moments was on a 30+ degree day in the middle of July. I was working as the site coordinator at Pinery Trail. A touching moment working at the build sites is when you see the kids and the families you directly impact coming home from work or school after you’ve spent the day working hard. This particular afternoon was a scorcher and the volunteers were doing their best to get the work done and keep morale up. Cold drinks were offered and the AC was on but they just were not providing enough relief from the heat. Soon after the cooler broke down. Caroline, the site supervisor saw it as the perfect opportunity for everyone to take a break. With many kids in the neighborhood playing on their nearby yards, she brought out a bunch of freezies and called everyone over. It is one of the most heartwarming moments of my experience because, despite the unbearable heat, many people in the community gathered to make the day a lot better.
10. What advice would you give an individual that wants to get involved with Habitat for Humanity GTA?
I would say to people looking to get involved to keep an open mind and to bring a positive attitude. Try your best but don’t be scared to ask questions, everybody is very willing to help you. The time you spend at Habitat GTA can help build valuable connections that will not only benefit your career but also positively impact you in the future. Don’t be afraid to take full advantage of the opportunity!