Habitat builds home in Anahola

ANAHOLA — Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity welcomed more than a dozen volunteers from the Mainland and the Netherlands who came to the island to help build a house in Anahola as part of the Global Village project.

Work has started on the home of Dellvyne Gandia — one of five houses the nonprofit is building this year in the Hawaiian Homesteads of Anahola. Gandia, a recently retired county worker, said qualifying for the homesteads was only the first step.

Gandida said she lost her first home to foreclosure a few years ago and never thought she would own a home again. A friend encouraged her to visit the Habitat office in ‘Ele‘ele, and she started a year-long process to purchase her home through Habitat.

Habitat offers a zero-percent interest rate loan in combination with grants and volunteer labor that lower the cost. “I am very excited to have my own place,” Gandia said.

Jan Roberta of Connecticut is the team leader. She was in Kaua‘i last year as a Habitat volunteer.

“I fell in love with the island,” Roberta said.

For the past 11 years, Roberta has volunteered with Habitat on the Jimmy Carter Work Projects in South Korea, South Africa, Mexico and Thailand, and in Los Angeles, Alabama and Georgia. She started her international work in Romania five years ago and then returned to the U.S. on weekly missions to Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“Volunteering for Habitat is definitely a way for me to get away from the stress and see the tangible result of putting in a good day’s work,” Roberta said.

As a team leader, Roberta said the management detail does take her away from the hands-on work she enjoys so much. The good part is that she is planning to ensure the team has a meaningful and enjoyable experience on and off the job.

“I wanted to be leader because I am a teacher and a social worker and do a lot of group work with people,” she said. “I love teaching people to do things, and that is why I started doing it.”

The volunteers range in age from 19 to 67. Roberta said the retirees show the young people that there is something to look forward to in their golden years.

“This team came together very well from the very first day,” she said. “As far as getting along and learning from each other, it has been pretty seamless.”

The team includes Matt Gynn of Columbus, Ohio, who works for Honda Motors. He once worked at the main office in Tochigi, Japan.

Gynn said that traveling throughout Southeast Asia and discovering new cultures was great, but he said he wanted travel to mean more than a vacation. He has worked on projects in New Guinea, Vietnam and Poland.

 “They were all amazing experiences,” he said.

Gynn said he also looks forward to scuba diving on his time off.  “February in Ohio is not that great,” he added.

Scott Hart of Pendleton, Ore., is no stranger to Kaua‘i. Hart spent his honeymoon here years ago, and he returned a couple of years ago on a hiking and kayaking trip.

With several years of experience in construction, Hart has plumbing, carpentry, electrical, pest control and lumber expertise. He is owner of an online high performance off-road racing products company crfstuff.com.

Samantha Wangsgard is a forester and volunteer firefighter in Rapid City, S.D. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she was a rower at the University of Minnesota.

Sara Ayres is from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, but currently resides in Tampa, Fla., where she is an ultrasound tech and operates an online pattern business with her mother.

Bob and Jan Cope of Poplar Bluff, Mo., have been married for 43 years. Bob was a senior circuit judge, and Jan was a field director for the Girl Scouts.

Since retirement, the two have put their belongings in storage and hit the road as university teachers in Dalian, China, and as YMCA volunteers in Colorado.

Kaua‘i is their third major Habitat project after Jackson, Wyo., and in New Zealand. They have also been involved in volunteer work in Costa Rica.

Jean Currie, a transit agency worker and grandparent from Portland, Ore., started out as a volunteer with the Oregon Natural Desert Association, a group that restores terrain to its natural state. She also volunteers with Cycle Oregon.

Sonya Palmer is an attorney from Austin, Texas. She volunteers with Austin Habitat and serves on the Home Repair Selection Committee. She is also a self-published children’s book author.

Linds “Axel” Poulsen is a 19-year-old Holland native who is now living in Singapore after a year in Azerbaijan.

 He worked on Habitat projects in Sabah, Malaysia, and in Sri Lanka.

“I’ve never been to Kaua‘i or any of the islands in the area before and this is a perfect opportunity to help out their community, see their culture and make new friends with the homeowners and the team,” Poulsen said.

The project is in partnership with the Kaua‘i County Housing Agency.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is negotiating with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for an additional 10 homes in the Pi‘ilani Mai Ke Kai subdivision.

Robin Mazor, Kaua‘i Habitat’s director of volunteer programs, said planning starts as much as a year in advance, and volunteers apply before being selected to a team. In addition, the volunteers pay their way and sometimes even donate to the home they are helping to build.

 The global teams visit Kaua‘i eight to 10  times a year, she said.

The Global Village team is also helping make major renovations at the ReStore facility in Hanapepe. Another set of volunteers is working on a house in Kalaheo.

Habitat also announced the fundraising campaign goal of $3 million to help finance the infrastructure of the ‘Ele‘ele Iluna affordable housing subdivision owned by Habitat.

It has already built 17 homes and plans to build 107 more on the 24-acre parcel by 2013.

The cost of the entire subdivision project is close to $16 million for the infrastructure and houses, according to Habitat. The $3 million in fundraising is what Habitat needs to finance the rest.

For information about Habitat programs, contact Anne Dimock, Habitat development director, at anne@kauaihabitat.org or call (808) 335-0295, ext. 113.

To volunteer, call Robin Mazor at 651-0286.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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