By Debra Thomas
Dave Suydam has returned home to a small town in South East Michigan called Adrian but he made some memories in his time with us as an AmeriCorps Construction Assistant Supervisor from September 2009 to July 2010.
What do you remember as the best thing about work?
The best thing about working there was meeting the wide variety of volunteers, experiencing the Gulf Coast culture, Gulfport, NOLA; I enjoyed also building the homes and learning all sorts of skills.
How about the Coast?
The coast was amazing. I lived in Biloxi, right on Hwy 90 by the Gulf and loved it. I loved the night life, casinos, Mississippi Surge Hockey, The Shed, The Grocery, and The Biloxi Schooner; going to New Orleans, taking pictures of the area; enjoying blues music. The food of the Gulf Coast, alone, is a reason to go there.
In what way did the experience change you?
The experience was life transforming. Just, being exposed to a different culture was at first kind of shocking but it re-contextualized the way I viewed humanitarian efforts and Habit for Humanity as a whole. It changed me by improving my people skills, building skills and helped me to get over my fear of experiencing new things.
The people I worked with were most meaningful to me. I enjoyed all the people I worked with. The construction supervisors, the other AmeriCorps members, the volunteers, the partner families. It was amazing to be a part of such a positive organization and program, The AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon and the Talladega Trip were some of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken.
Would you recommend serving with AmeriCorps/VISTA?
I fully recommend AmeriCorps National Direct and Vista. I myself am an outdoors person, so I enjoyed construction as a National Direct, but I believe if you like air conditioning more than sweat you’d be better suited for an office position. The office at HFHMGC is filled with loving inspiring people to work with, so if you like office work it would also be great.
How about HFHMGC?
I would even just recommend going down to HFHMGC and volunteering for a week just to try it out – that is how I got turned on to the idea. I volunteered with my local Habitat Chapter at my college and went on a trip down there. I loved it so much, after meeting a couple AmeriCorps members that I knew I wanted to serve a year – and ended up serving two. HFHMGC is a great organization and I cannot speak highly enough about the great people there.
Where are you now; what are you doing?
I am currently back in my home town Adrian, MI working for my dad’s business and other small businesses building websites and seeking new career opportunities. I am also in the process of starting up some of my own ideas as non-profits.
Did HFHMGC &/or AmeriCorps/VISTA help prepare you for your new job?
My experience with HFHMGC helped me in so many ways and in deciding what I want to do with my life. Going through college, I felt very unsure about what I wanted to do and felt passion for many different things but didn’t know how to choose just one. After working with HFHMGC, I went to Habitat of Orange County so I could experience a new area. I loved that just as much and both of my AC years offered me one realization. I don’t have to choose just one thing, I can choose a balance of many careers, and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m doing websites, helping small businesses, in the process of building my own non-profits and hope to stay involved with Habitat for Humanity for the rest of my life because it really is a great organization.
Do you see yourself volunteering in the future? In any particular field?
I see myself volunteering in any way I can, not just with Habitat but other non-profits too, you don’t have to just choose one. I would most likely volunteer in construction as a leader, I hope to become a licensed contractor and build my own house, so I could offer that expertise when I get it.
Anything you would like to add?
I would just like to add, if you’re just getting out of high school or college, this is a great experience, it’s a great way to see new perspectives, learn new things, discover what it is you might want to do with your life. I fully recommend AmeriCorps and Habitat of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Thanks Dave for your insight on what AmeriCorps can do for you even as you are working for others. We wish you all the luck in the future – though it sounds like you are getting there just fine with hard work!
P.S. The Shed is back up and running. It wasn’t even down 2 weeks. People from all over brought memorabilia and bric-a-brac; they still want more. Some local restaurants lent equipment until new could be bought. The music is live and loud every weekend. 🙂