KAILUA-KONA — Oldies music sounded through a Waimea cul-de-sac as women — wielding shovels and clad in hard hats and tie-dyed shirts — worked to level the foundation of a new home.
Seventeen women and five men volunteered to start construction on a three-bedroom house on Kipuupuu Street. Saturday’s build was part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week.
“It’s important to know that women can come out and do this kind of work,” said Amanda MacIntosh, community relations coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island.
Lowe’s and Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island teamed up for the second consecutive year of the Women Build on the island, though Habitat and Lowe’s have been engaging women to build nationwide for 11 years.
Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a global, nonprofit organization.
Habitat Hawaii Island works with low-income families to help them build a safe and affordable home.
Tony Vidana, construction manager at the Waimea site, said the Women Builds are the most fun.
“I don’t know why,” Vidana said. “Maybe it’s the energy they bring.”
The women who volunteered at Saturday’s build had little to no construction experience, however, Vidana said they were doing the work of professional masons.
“It takes patience and attention to detail,” he said.
One of the volunteers, Marie-anne Rouse, helped tie rebar together so they could place it in the foundation to give strength to the concrete once it’s poured.
This is the third build where Rouse has volunteered.
“We’re making a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “We always get more out of it.”
Rouse added the Women Build Week shows women have a voice.
“We have capability and can work together as a team,” she said.
Sonya Wirtanen was another volunteer at the Waimea home. The Massachusetts woman moved to the Big Island three months ago after joining AmeriCorps.
Wirtanen said women might think they won’t be useful or helpful in construction, but Women Build lets female volunteers realize they can work in a male-dominated industry.
“They have things to contribute,” Wirtanen said.
She added it’s rewarding to be working next to the homeowner.
Stanton Kaupu-Cabuag, homeowner, was amazed at the turnout of volunteers.
“This is awesome,” Kaupu-Cabuag said. “I’m getting my house built.”
The homeowner was impressed with the women working at the site.
“I’m learning these women can do just as much if not more than men,” he said. “It’s a humbling experience.”
Kaupu-Cabuag’s mother, Jessie Grace, was one of the volunteers. She has donated money to Habitat for Humanity for years, but this is the first time she’s done “sweat labor.”
“When you get a group of people together, anything is possible,” Grace said. “The women come, they’re enthusiastic and they really want to make an impact.”
Habitat Hawaii Island has completed 60 new homes, 36 critical home repairs and 24 neighborhood revitalization projects.