Saturday, September 18, 2010

Let me tell you about the work I'm doing.

Let me tell you a little about my work. I'll let the CHRPA Handbook for new volunteers shed some light on their overall mission:

"The mission of Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona, Inc, is to assist the disadvantaged of our community to live in and maintain humane housing. We accomplish our mission by being by being a client-centered, quick-response, cost-effective provider of emergency home repair services to low-income homeowner/occupants in Tucson and Pima County. We prioritize projects that address health of safety conferns, reduce high utility bills, or otherwise preserve the livability of the home."

And from another section:

"Client-centered means we care about our clients. We are not as concerned with productivity as we are with helping the people that we serve. You will find that many of them need someone to talk with more than they need a new faucet. Although we strive to repair emergency situations and offer clients an adequate living space, it's ok to sit down and have a soda or some tamales with them. Hearing the clients' stories brings additional meaning to the work we're doing."

After a full week of work, I can now begin to see how these values come into play. This week I've labored for a full 8-hour day digging a ditch for a new gas line while the homeowner sat in a lawn chair smoking marijuana watching me (more coming on this one). I've played peekaboo with a young girl at one of the sites. One client's "emergency" was a slow drip coming from her faucet--I think more than a helping hand she needed a listening ear. And you hear people's stories: why they came to Tucson, what they hope for, the things that make them happy.

And at the end of the day I come home (for the some reason the 9 miles home after work seems to go by much quicker than the 9 miles there) exhausted and drained. I typically collapse on a couch, eat some dinner, help clean up, and go to bed.

Life in service is not glamorous. No medals are awarded on a daily basis. But, I would be lying if I were to say that a life of service is not rewarding. Because every day I see the smiles of people that will have one less worry in a life full of them.

The work we do at CHRPA is admittedly a band-aid. We are not addressing larger issues of the policies and systems that force people into poor housing and a lack of funding to maintain their homes. But lets face it, this is one more opportunity to practice the values that Mother Theresa spoke of when she said that"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

We're all small parts of a much larger and beautiful collective whole. I'm one tile in a beautiful mosaic that changes people's lives. I'm dreaming big, but I'm acting small. Or, at least...I'm trying.

Pictures: Further below is about 18 feet of a metal awning that bent over onto the other part of the awning in a windstorm. We had to remove this ruined part while trying to keep the existing part intact! Problem solving 101!
Immediately below is a swamp cooler my co-worker Margaret and I installed. We also extended the exhaust from a vent and secured it, along with setting up a water-drainage system(this is the PVC pipe you see) for the used water that the client can attach to a hose and water plants with!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Work, Day 1

It is 9 pm and I am utterly exhausted. That's really all you need to know. By the time I bike 9 miles to work, perform manual labor (today I repaired a leaking roof and helped fix a semi-functional swamp cooler), and then bike 9 miles home...I've got nothing left. It's a wonderful feeling though. The first family we helped won't have to choose of having a house that is comfortable and cool to sit in (but making the roof leak) or having a house that is hot hot HOT but preventing the roof from leaking. That changes their daily lives. And the second people have been without hot water for almost 2 months because they couldn't get the pilot light on their hot water heater to ignite. By the time we walked out of there, they had hot water available, plus we ordered a part to make sure we were providing a long-term fix.

I really like helping people.

This is the swamp cooler we disassembled, moved, repaired the roof underneath, and then reassembled. I should note that I left a little bitty chunk of finger in one of the cooler smashed my left index finger as I was installing literally the LAST I ended the job covered in a bit of tar and a bit of blood. Must have done something right. :)

And now, bed...another early morning, another 9 miles there, another day in the sun, and 9 miles home! I should start before and after pictures now for what I'm gonna look like by the end of this year. :)

Thanks for reading. Keep dreaming!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Here are some of my thoughts from the past few days, w/ a brief explanation of when they were written:

(written on the plane from Stony Point to Tucson)

This is the lie that our individualism tells us.
You're unique.
You're happier alone.
Who wants to just be one of the crowd?
You know what I found out?
I do.
Because when the beloved community comes together
we realize we were meant for it.
We were meant for something greater than individualism
a collective unit
that gains strength from each of its parts
complementing parts, fitting together
this is the good life
and when you lose it
you realize what you had
all too late.

Yet I'm grateful for the time we had together.
Yes, perhaps it would have been easier to avoid the process of growing attached to people
only to see them move to the very margins of your life.
But at least you felt it.
At least you felt that love
that support.
People that care.
Young people that care.
About each other.
About the world we live in.
People of action.
Caring requires reaction.

We go.
We go to be, not to help, not to try to change how people live
but to be in their lives.
A beloved community of their own.
Because the beloved community does not require money.
Status. Religion.
All the beloved community needs is each other.
What a beautiful thing.
All we need is each other.

(sitting on top of a hill/mountain at the park 6 miles outside of town)

Even in Tucson
the mountaintop brings
A moment of rest from everything swimming through my head.

As I climb upwards
the things bogging me down
slowly lose their pull
their strength
their power.
And the heart
the soul
the mind
feel peace.
Look at the desert.
It doesn't ask for more from the Creator.
It finds peace where it is at.
No more
no less
Be still.
Be quiet.
Be content.

Keep dreaming!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Some pictures!

From top left: Sitting on a ledge in the mountain park 6 miles outside of Tucson.
Top right: An Inuksuk on top of the peak.
Middle: My roommate Meredith on top of the bluff.

Middle left: My favorite picture from the Mountain Park hike.
Middle Right: A night view of Tucson from the top of Tumamac Hill.
Bottom Left: The 4 of us (3 from Tucson, one from San Antonio), going to our commissioning service in Ossining, NY.
Bottom Right: My small group at orientation in Stony Point, NY. (playing King Frog)
Bottom of the bottom: My family here at 1229 N. 4th Ave! From left, Me, city supervisor Brandon, Stevie, Ali, Meredith, Jill, Jacob!

A week gone!

Well, I've been in Tucson almost a week now. And boy, has it flown by. We arrived last Monday around 7 pm and were greeted by literally the most incredible sunset we could ask for, one of those cacophonies of color and light that just makes your heart feel like it could dance. Our site coordinator, Brandon, picked us up and took us to his home, the third floor of a multi-level community house where he lives with his wife, Jodie, and two daughters, Jakelynn and Lucia. Brandon has been down in Tucson for years now, long enough to sink his teeth into the events and efforts that are taking place here, and he will help us get involved with those efforts as much as we want.

Tuesday through Sunday has basically been an intense week-long introduction to life in Tucson. We've been biking almost everywhere, and Tucson is a WONDERFUL city for biking. With that in mind, much of our time has been spent at a local bike shop that gives us a great discount! Brandon spends our entire transportation budget to buy us bikes, and those are the way we get around! I'm pretty excited--this Friday I'll get my new Raleigh 2011 Sport road-bike...usually listed around $650, but with the discount and the money Brandon had for each of us, I'll end up paying around $35. By far the best bike I have ever owned.

We've also gotten settled into our house, a nice little 4 bedroom place pretty close to the U of A campus, and just a few blocks from a nice little downtown area called 4th Avenue. Everyone is sharing rooms, with the 4th room set aside for any guests we have come (so make plans to come visit!). I'll give a quick recap of my roomies:

Jacob: My roommate, the one other guy! Jacob is originally from Asheville and went to school at Montreat College in North Carolina. He's working here in town at Southside Presbyterian Church as an organizer for the day labor program for migrant workers.

Jill: A registered dietitian from California who just finished her masters degree at Virginia State! Jill is going to be working at the food bank in town, and is excited to put her food skills to use! She'll also get to do some farming, which will be great fun!

Meredith: Just graduated this spring from Gordon College, back north of Boston, MA. Meredith will be working at the Primavera Foundation, focusing on their homeless ministry.

Ali: A native of Virginia and recent graduate of Virginia Tech, Ali will be working with Borderlinks this year. For those who don't know, Borderlinks is an program that works with both sides of the border to educate students of all ages as to the complexity of the issues that surround the border. Check out their website at

Stevie: Definitely from Texas (I've already been caught somehow emulating her nice little drawl), Stevie went to Austin College (where she knew my good friends Megan McCarty and Tad Hopp!). Stevie will also be working at Borderlinks this year.

So there you have it. There's an intro to my life here in Tucson. Now I have to go get ready to cheer Boise St. on against Ali and Virginia Tech!

I'll be back with some thoughts/reflections later!

Until then--Keep dreaming!