Nearly four years ago I signed up for my first HistoriCorps project. I took a week’s vacation from my office job and headed off, intending to be a watcher and follower, to be cautious, get a sense of how this “carpentry camp” worked and whether it was a good fit for me. On my first day I was thrilled to be working on a roof, feeling competent and capable. By my second day I was leading a small team completing ground-level repairs. By the end of the week I knew I would be back again. It felt life-changing. I’d had a background in the trades but hadn’t worked with my hands for about eight years, during which I’d worked at a computer and had two shoulder surgeries. I didn’t know what to expect from Historicorps or from me. It was more than I’d hoped for. The staff made me feel valued and respected. My fellow volunteers were eager to work and to learn and made it all fun. The work was satisfying. The environment was beautiful. Nutritious food was prepared for me to enjoy. Going home was hard.
Now I have spent 10 weeks on seven different projects, each of them unique as far as location, personnel, scope of work, and environmental conditions. What has remained a constant? The staff have been highly-qualified, welcoming, supportive, and helpful. It is impossible to categorize the volunteers except to say that almost without exception they have been eager to learn, to share, to work hard, to laugh, to save treasured buildings. It has been an honor to play a role in saving these historic structures, to make them available, safe, and accessible to the public. It feels good to work hard, to work together, to make a tangible difference. To be able to look back at the end of the week and say, “We did this together.”
I encourage everyone to give this a try. If you lack in skills, someone will teach you. If you lack strength, you will find ways to be helpful that are within your means. You will make friends. You will be fed and cared for. You will feel you’ve done something important. You will make a difference.