Building Your Future

Building Your Future
  By Jennifer Saltman

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Sometimes it's what you do outside of the classroom that looks best on your resume.

Organisations such as Habitat for Humanity International offer programs for students and youth ages five and up to get involved in volunteering. For older students, Campus Chapters and Youth Programs enable and encourage students to help eliminate poverty housing in partnership with Habitat affiliates worldwide.

Adrian Archambault co-ordinates the volunteers who work in the office of the Greater Vancouver branch of Habitat for Humanity. He says that the program is useful for high school and university students alike. Students from the trades programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology were recently involved in a project in Burnaby, B.C. as part of their practical experience, and a few of them actually did their exams on site.

"It's a great opportunity for Habitat and for them," says Archambault. He says a number of the volunteers get involved for the work experience and to satisfy school requirements. You need to be at least 16 years old to work on a construction site and have parental consent if you're under 18, but Archambault says, "volunteers are welcome to come out and do anything."

All training with tools and construction materials is provided on the site, so no experience is required. And if construction isn't your game, volunteers also get involved in the planning, organising, office work and administration.

"Hopefully there's a broad experience offered for whatever anyone would be interested in," Archambault says.

For students looking for a unique way to spend their summer getting valuable work experience, the Summer Youth Blitz is the way to do it. Volunteers include youth ages 16-18 from high schools and youth organisations from around the country. A group of 15-20 youth with adult leaders "blitz build" an entire house in two weeks. In the evenings, activities such as team-building games, leadership development and local cultural events or community dinners are held.

"They can get work experience with building and construction but also a fair amount of people experience, I think," said Archambault.

Each two-week program generally takes place between the months of June and August in locations like the US, Mexico, Trinidad, Romania and Costa Rica, to name a few.

Going even a step beyond a blitz build, youth volunteers from 150 countries recently completed a home in just three days as part of the World Youth Day celebrations this summer here in Toronto.

Ramann Patara, 23, volunteered with the project and now works for Habitat as an Assistant to the Construction Manager. "This job was different from other summer jobs I've had because at the end of the day I was actually making a difference in other people's lives," she says, "There's a feeling of personal satisfaction". Ramann's duties included assisting with construction activities on site (painting, framing, landscaping, and siding), and also administrative responsibilities and completing purchase orders.

Not only do places such as Habitat for Humanity provide references for prospective employers, but they provide new skills students may not have the opportunity to learn elsewhere. After university Ramann intends
 

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