Habitat family meets public and receives messages of hope
Claudia Palma, her mother Antonia and José Palma with children Sammuel, José and Isabella will soon be able to move into their new home currently under contruction at Niagara College, the college’s 11th home built for Habitat for Humanity in its ten year partnership.
Monday was a milestone in the creation of the latest build for Habitat for Humanity. A Wood Signing Ceremony was held at Niagara College, the construction site of the 11th home built, part of the Habitat for Humanity Niagara/Niagara College partnership.
This build is unlike no other attempted yet, it is being built in modular style in the college’s Rankin Technology Centre and will be trucked out in the spring to its permanent location on Martin St. in Welland. Final stages of construction will be completed at that time.
Monday’s ceremony was an invite to members of the public and members involved with the build to inscribe good wishes on the wooden frame of the house toward the family who will be taking possession of the home. The sentiments will be sealed within the walls and are offered as encouragement for the family starting a new life in a new home.
Seventy-five students from the College’s Construction Techniques and Renovation Technician programs have been involved with the construction over their year.
“Doing the house build for Habitat has been an amazing experience,” Anthony Elford, a first year student in Niagara College’s Renovation Technician program from St. Thomas, ON. said. “It is an amazing feeling to be able to build a house for a family that’s in great need of it.”
“I think I can speak for all of the students involved, it is an amazing experience and it’s great that Habitat for Humanity and Niagara College do this every year,” he said.
Niagara College president Dan Patterson leaves his message of good will during the Wood Signing Ceremony for the Habitat for Humanity build at the college Monday.
“What a way to begin 2016, with another first,” Niagara College President Dan Patterson said to the crowd of supporters and students involved in the project.
“This is just an extraordinary story of a partnership,” he said. “There are three things I know I want to say about today.”
“First, the partnership is extraordinary between Niagara College and Habitat for Humanity,” he said “Ten years and eleven homes, we have been able to work through this partnership.”
“To me, this is taking it to another level,” he said. “We always try to struggle about linking the curriculum and the opportunity to build with the student’s experience at Niagara College.”
“The incredible creativity of Colin Robinson, our professor extraordinaire, and our Associate Dean Tim McLeod and the team that put this together have built in all sorts of efficiencies and effectiveness to end up making this a first in Canada (the building in the modular style).”
“For Canadians in these Canadian conditions, I’m sure that you are all glad to be working in the warmth and not the cold of a Canadian January,” he said.
“The second thing I’d like to talk about is the power of applied learning,” he said. “This is where colleges are just doing an amazing job across this province and across this country, about applying education and knowledge to the world of work in creating a house right from scratch.”
“The skills and knowledge that are students are picking up, they’ll be graduating with highly skilled learning outcomes,” he said. “That will make them very marketable.”
“The third thing I’d like to mention is that part of our goal at the college is the sense of social responsibility,” he said. “Giving back, that sense of citizenship which is so important and sometimes gets lost in our society.”
Carlos Flores jr. inscribes his good wishes on the framing of the house for his friends while his father Carlos Flores sr. looks on.
“I’d like to recognize the students,” Colin Robinson, program coordinator Construction Techniques Niagara College said. “They do all the work, it becomes a running joke at the end of the season, I don’t build the house, the students do.”
“I’m just a coach, I’m in the background,” he said. “Many of these young people bring a ton of skills, energy and effort to the table.”
“This is exciting, yet somewhat unnerving,” he said. “Modular construction is not new in Canada, but, it is new to us at the college.”
“We’re working within the confines and limitations of our school environment and timelines but it is coming along terrifically,” he said. “It is going very smoothly and I have no concerns at this point, we’ll save the concerns for putting it on a truck in March.”
“This is a pretty soft life,” he said. “Normally we’ve been out in the mud and the snow, this is about as good of a conditions as you can get for this project. You’ll notice there’s no mud ground into the floorboards which normally there is by now, the house is clean dry, very straight and very stable.”
“We’re very excited,” he said. “Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this.”
During the presenation, Alistair Davis, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Niagara introduced the family chosen to take possession of the finished house.
The Palma family were community advocates in their home country of El Salvador and after becoming targets for gang violence, decided to flee their country and came to Canada. José, Claudia and their young children José, Sammuel and Isabella are looking forward to their new home. Claudia’s mother Antonia will also reside at the residence.
“When gang violence threatened their family, they along with their son José and Claudia’s mother Antonia were forced to flee their own family, friends and their country and start over a new life here in Canada and in Niagara,” he said. “In Canada they found what you find in Canada. You find safety, protection and hope for a better life for your family and for yourself.”
“They sure found it here in Niagara through the good work of many other organizations including Habitat,” he said.
“So as they work towards their new life her in Canada, their family has grown,” he said.
Since coming to Canada, Sammuel and Isabella were born.
Claudia is currently working through the educational requirements to practice dentistry in Canada and helps with the church diocese in St. Catharines helping to bring Syrian refugees into Canada. Her husband José is currently enrolled in Niagara College’s Auto Services Technician program.
“This house represents the next stage and hopefully the end of a long journey that started for them when the left El Salvador,” Davis said. “And they now have the opportunity to continue to write the story of their family in a new place that in a few months will be their new home on 246 Martin St.”
“I’m so excited to see everybody excited,” Claudia Palma said. “But I can tell you that no one is as excited as we are.”
“For us has been a very, very long journey until this day,” she said. “We have found in Canada protection, new friends and now a dream come true.”
“I want to say ‘thank-you’ first to Habitat and then to Niagara College, every one of our sponsors and to my friends and, of course, to the students,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
At the end of the presentation, Habitat for Humanity Niagara CEO Alistair Davis invited guests to use black marker and inscribe their well wishes and blessings on the wood of the home offering encouragement to the family in their new home.
Sammuel Palma peers over the framework for the window in the brand new house being built for him and his family through the Niagara College/Habitat for Humanity partnership.