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!


  1. Wow. Sounds like quite an enriching experience over there in the desert. There is something about manual labor that touches the soul. Keep inspiring people Luke!

  2. Hi, Luke. It's really great to read about your experience with CHRPA and the YAV program in general! I lived in the Tucson YAV house from 2007-2008 and worked with CHRPA as well. I totally understand your description of the bike ride and being exhausted at the end of the day, haha. Keep up the good work, and tell Margaret and Scott I say "hello!"
    Steve Gillard

  3. Steve! I've heard about you from so many folks! Rumor has it you've put a few miles on your bike as well! :)

    I'll pass along your greetings to the good folks down at CHRPA!!!