Student-built home is where the heart is

Student Dylan Olsen takes part in Habitat's wood signing ceremony.


















Shown above: Student Dylan Olsen takes part in Habitat’s wood signing ceremony.


Dylan Olsen couldn’t help but smile as he signed his name on the wall of a house he has been helping to construct since September. For the 19-year-old first-year Construction Techniques student, it wasn’t only about the sense of pride in his work. It was about the impact his efforts will have on the lives of local family.

“It makes me feel really good when I think about the family who is going to live here,” Olsen said. “I feel tingly inside.”

Working on the home for Habitat is a learning experience for the students, as well as a meaningful experience them, noted Nathan Ishii, 19, who is in his first year of the two-year Renovation Technician program.

“When I go home I’m proud to tell my family that we’re building a house for a family who needs it, and it’s really inspiring me to do a lot more,” he said.

Ishii has been working on the house twice per week. He has helped pour the concrete, build the foundation and put up the roof tresses.

“This is the first time I’m doing this kind of work,” he said. “Building this house has actually taught me a lot and I’m having a lot of fun doing this.”

Olsen and Ishii are among a group of about 70 Niagara College students who have been building the house at 165 Martin St. in Welland since September. The house is the college’s seventh project with Habitat for Humanity which, in an effort to eliminate poverty, builds affordable homes for those who might not otherwise be able to purchase one.

At a wood signing event on November 24, 2011, Niagara College students and members of the public had a chance to sign the walls and floors. This Habitat for Humanity ritual aims to fill the future home with warmth and positive messages that will remain a fixture of the home forever.

Olsen and his fellow students were able to meet the family who will be the future homeowners of their labour of love for the very first time – Jaylani and Iman Mohamed and their three children: Mahad, 11, Ameerah, 8, and Ayan, 3. The family will acquire the home with no-down payment and an interest-free mortgage, contributing ‘sweat equity’ hours through involvement with Habitat or other charitable endeavours.

“I’m so happy and grateful to the students working on the home. It means everything to me,” said Iman. “I feel very happy, very lucky and blessed.”

Alastair Davis, CEO Habitat for Humanity Niagara, said Niagara College students were leaving their mark not only through their signatures and stories, but by leaving their mark of excellence.

“This mark of their heartfelt work and learning that they put into this build will be with this family forever,” he said. “We really expect that all the A-plus students will look upon this building as one of the first huge accomplishments that they can be really can be really proud of and have for their entire lives.”

The NC students working on the home are predominantly from the Construction Techniques and Renovation Technician programs. The project is a learning tool for Robinson and other professors not only in construction and renovation, but in drafting, estimating and building codes classes. While Habitat brings in skilled trades professional trades for some tasks, such as plumbing, the students perform all of the tasks suited to them. They work on the site twice a week during scheduled lab visits.

Colin Robinson, coordinator of the construction programs, said the project provides the students with an opportunity to learn in a real world environment and to create a lasting legacy.

“The students find this process to be much more rewarding than traditional classroom learning,” he said. “The project also gives the college the opportunity to support Habitat and deserving families in our community.”

Habitat for Humanity Niagara is an independent, not-for-profit home builder that works in partnership with youth to construct safe and affordable homes which are sold to those in need at no profit and with no interest charged.

The home on Martin St. also features a geothermal heating and cooling system, donated by NextEnergy Inc. and Habitat Canada, which will boost its energy-efficiency by up to 70% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to three tons per year.

“This is a really fun project for our college to be involved in and I’m proud of the fact that our students are involved,” said acting president of Niagara College Dr. Steve Hudson, who attended the event. “It’s a great way for the students and the college to give back to the community.”

A home dedication and key turning ceremony is planned for April 2012.



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