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Group building.

Two cousins who grew up together and joined the NOAHH homeownership program at the same time, Kina Henry and Brittani Frank chose lots next to each other. Currently, both work in the service industry. While Brittani is working on her real estate license and a criminal law degree, Kina has gotten her CDL to drive 18-wheelers. At Women Build 2018, they not only worked on their own homes, but on each other’s, as part of a 12-day all woman accelerated build.

“I am going to tell Kina when she is 72 that we built this house together,” said Brittani. “I never expected it to be like this. The best part about working with the ladies is being able to have conversations, because I really love the personal relationship we have been building over the last few days.”

The build took place in the Lower Ninth Ward, bringing over 500 women to the site. The two homes were finished in 12 days across four weekends in May and June 2018.

“I see the people in the neighborhood are driving around,” said Kina. “They wonder what’s going on, and then they see all this pink. All of the hats that are bedazzled out here. It’s a fulfilling type of thing that’s going on. The essence of it, it’s very exciting, very collaborative.”

The volunteers all came from different backgrounds, but many found something in common with Kina and Brittani. For some, it was the fact that they were both following their dreams. For others, it was their hard work and determination. And for others, it was the shared experience of homeownership.

“It’s great to help other working women own their own homes,” said Women Build team leader Ellie Rand. “I know it meant a lot to me when I was able to own my first home. You care about it. You can live your life in it and start a family and hopefully grow old in it.”

The build fostered a spirit of cooperation. With other women guiding the construction and building the houses, no matter which team they were on, no matter which house they were building, the volunteers were there for each other.

“I think there’s just a different level of camaraderie among women,” said Free to Be team leader Arianna Baseman. “Especially when we’re doing something that’s like ‘a man’s work’, bringing all these women out here, working like badasses, hammering and nailing and cutting with power tools.”

Each team leader built her team from friends, coworkers, and family. They bedazzled hard hats, picked out team names, hosted happy hours and raffles, and raised the money to build both homes.

“We decided to name the team Lady Laborers of Love because that’s what we are: women who are coming together to help other New Orleans women,” said team leader Vicki Sadin.

Teams like the Women Build 2018 Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association brought people from all over the hospitality industry to the site to help fellow workers. Teams like All the Shingle Ladies were made up mostly of coworkers from the New Orleans Advocate, who were one of the main sponsors of the build.

“We get to see what people are made of,” said Lauren Ruello, team leader of All the Shingle Ladies. “We are all learning new things. It is great to see that there are more companies like ours willing to help out in any way that they can.”

“I’m so impressed with all of these women,” said Riley Kennedy, team leader of the Brick Freedias. “A lot of them are moms; a lot of them are running their own businesses. We have a surgeon whose whole livelihood is in her hands, and she’s out there hammering nails despite people telling her not to. It’s impressive to see people come together and literally build something together with their friends.”

Other teams, like the Fetes de Femmes or the Hammer On Krewe, brought families together on site.

“This is a context we don’t get to work in,” added Maddy Foster Martinez of the Hammer On Krewe. “[My sister and I] have been doing siding, and there is something really satisfying about it. At one point we were hammering in unison, saying, ‘We got this!’”

“Whenever we pass here we will think, ‘Oh, we all worked on that together’,” said Sarah Wachter, co-team leader of Fetes de Femmes. “It is something else we have to share as a memory together throughout our lives. What is cool is a lot of these memories have with these people are all separate, but this is the first one we all have together.”

If you are interested in being part of Women Build 2019, contact Marguerite at marguerite@habitat-nola.org or call 504-609-3335.

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