On an unseasonably cold Saturday in January, 14 Fellows and Fellows for Life from the Alabama Chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship met at a home in Bessemer, a community on the outskirts of Birmingham. With the temperature 20 degrees below January averages, they donned scarves, hats and gloves in attempts to keep warm, and gathered with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity. The day was January 14, the Saturday of MLK Day weekend—as well as Dr. Schweitzer’s birthday—and they were there to fix up a home that had sat vacant for three years.
In preparation for the service project, Fellows had read an article about the links between health and access to housing by the American Public Health Association. Over nearly three hours, Fellows cleared the home of all furniture and personal belongings; pulled up old carpeting, pulled staples from the wooden floors after carpet and padding was removed; cleared the yard of debris; and cleaned all surfaces to prepare the interior for painting. Despite the hard and sometimes tedious work, Fellows engaged in ongoing chatter, sharing updates on their projects and personal lives, interspersed with planning how to accomplish tasks like cleaning cobwebs from upper corners of rooms.
Over lunch, they talked about the APHA paper, and recounted ways they had seen housing as well as other determinants—including transportation and education—impact the lives of their project participants. They also learned more from the Habitat for Humanity staff about the ways in which the lives of those moving into Habitat for Humanity homes were changed for the better, including experiencing improved health. To see more photos, please see our album on Facebook!