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A student wearing a hardhat hammers a nail into a board as another student looks on.

Rady Faculty students get some hammering practice at the Habitat for Humanity kick-off event.

Rady Faculty gears up for Habitat for Humanity construction project

Volunteers needed for ‘Key to Health’ build

April 5, 2024 — 

Housing is one of the key social determinants of health.

In fact, when low-income families are able to move into safe, decent, affordable homes, there are measurable improvements in their overall health, and in their children’s confidence and educational success.

As part of its ongoing commitment to health in the community, the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences is partnering for the fifth time with Habitat for Humanity Manitoba to construct a home for purchase by a hard-working Winnipeg family.

A sign promoting the "Key to Health" build project on display at the kick-off event.On April 2, a kickoff event was held in the Brodie Centre atrium to encourage Rady students, faculty and staff to sign up as construction volunteers for the 2024 “Key to Health” build project.

“Habitat Manitoba’s affordable home-ownership program … offers families a hand up, empowering them to build strength, stability and self-reliance,” said Colleen Bready from CTV News Winnipeg, who hosted the event. 

The build of a four-bedroom townhouse will take place at the Habitat development on Pandora Avenue West in Transcona on June 5, 6, 7, 11 and 14. The Rady Faculty aims to recruit 60 volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis. The deadline to sign up as a volunteer is May 15.

Each Rady college has a designated day:

June 5 – Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry & School of Dental Hygiene (10 spots)

June 6 – College of Rehabilitation Sciences (10 spots)

June 7 – College of Pharmacy (10 spots)

June 11 – Max Rady College of Medicine plus Rady Faculty of Health Sciences (20 spots)

June 14 – College of Nursing (10 spots)

A total of 55 energy-efficient townhouses, which will eventually house about 275 people, are being built over the next few years on the Pandora Avenue West site, said Jamie Hall, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Manitoba.

Menges and Fyori, a couple with four children who will invest 500 volunteer hours of sweat equity and take ownership of the Rady-built townhouse, came to Manitoba from Ethiopia.

“They have outgrown their current two-bedroom apartment … and are very excited to start a new chapter,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, vice-dean Indigenous health, social justice and anti-racism of the Rady Faculty.

Volunteers for the build don’t need any prior carpentry or construction skills, Anderson said. Training and equipment are provided, and there’s a task to suit everyone’s comfort level.

“All you really need is some community spirit and a desire to put your commitment to human rights into action,” said Anderson, noting that social justice and social accountability are core values of the Rady Faculty.

Dr. Bruce Martin, former associate dean of the Max Rady College of Medicine, recalled volunteering on the previous four Rady builds in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

“It’s an incredibly heartwarming experience,” he said. “I’ve been to every ‘key ceremony’ that Habitat has when we transfer the keys to the new family.

“Volunteering is not only a manifestation of your commitment to our faculty, to our community, to our families. It’s a wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively and learn from each other. Just do it.”

Dr. Keith Fowke, professor and department head of medical microbiology and infectious diseases, is also an experienced Habitat volunteer and signed up for this year’s Max Rady College of Medicine build day, June 11.

“It’s meaningful, it’s fun, and you get to learn useful skills,” Fowke said.

“You’re doing something tangible to help a family gain some independence. A lot of people from our department volunteer, and it’s a great way to have a meaningful activity that we do together.

“You’re also working with trained tradespeople. Basic construction techniques are really good skills for everyone to have. So you get something out of it yourself as well.”

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