From Trip Participant to Trip Leader

By Madeline McIntyre

This week, we are saying thanks to Melissa Banks (pictured center in green shirt, and L and R), who recently led a Global Village (GV) trip to Asheville as a part of Habitat for Humanity International’s National Women Build Week. Melissa had already participated in four Global Village trips when she decided to become a trip leader. Lucky for us, her first trip in the leadership position, was to Asheville.

Melissa is from Maryland, where she had previously been involved with her local affiliate’s Women Build (WB) House. She volunteered on the WB House there, but that wasn’t quite enough for Melissa. So, when she was asked to lead a Women Build GV trip, she jumped at the opportunity. “It was nice having a group of women working together,” she said. “You know, women power!”

Global Village trips are the definition of a working vacation. The groups spend their days volunteering on the job site, and they have evenings to explore all the area has to offer. But you can’t just show up and expect a spot on these trips. Those interested must apply and be able to secure funding to cover expenses and a donation towards the house in which they will be pouring hours of work and sweat. “That’s always amazing to me,” Melissa said of the Global Village model. “People are willing to spend money to come and work incredibly hard. And it’s so worth it.”

Since the trip centered on Women Build, there was an incredibly high number of female applicants. Out of 30 applications, only 5 were from males. She credits this to the comfortable environment that Women Build offers, especially for those who are not experienced in construction. Women Build is a great way to learn new skills, or hone existing ones.

“I was really surprised that quite a few members of my team were between age 20 and 30,” Melissa said. “It was wonderful to see so many young women taking an interest in being on a job site!”

When asked the best way to describe the unique experience of Women Build, she could only come up with two words: generosity and compassion. “I keep using generosity and compassion, but those are the two words that kept coming up for me all week long,” Melissa said. “It was just incredible.”

That generosity and compassion created a camaraderie that bound her team together. “It was such a full commitment,” Melissa says of her group. “We came as strangers that first day, and by the last day, we were a family. Everyone just bonded together.”

Her team has already stated that they want to follow Melissa wherever she goes next, and that enthusiasm has her considering leading another Women Build trip. “I would like to see Global Village put more focus on Women Build and build it up more,” Melissa said. “It’s such an awesome experience, and I think getting it out more to the public and having people better understand it, would be great.”

Melissa didn’t immediately head back home though, and she continues to practice generosity and compassion by volunteering at the Women Build House during her extended stay in Asheville.

Melissa, Thank You for your leadership, enthusiasm and commitment to Habitat for Humanity, in Buncombe County and around the world!

If you are interested in learning more about Women Build, please visit our WB blog.