When I told my friends and family that my new employer was sending me to Romania with Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for a family living in poverty I was met with laughter: a building site is certainly not my natural environment, writes Sarah Wilson.
For the last seven years Addleshaw Goddard has sent its new trainees on this trip prior to the start of their training contract. I remember reading about it when I was researching firms and also hearing trainees talking about it on my vacation scheme. It really set AG apart from other firms. I was impressed that the firm was contributing to a great cause and ensuring future trainees bonded.
Prior to the trip we raised money for Habitat by doing weird and wonderful things, such as Total Warrior Challenges, trampolining and boxing to name but two.
In Romania we stayed in a beautiful city called Cluj. Two partners, two members of human resources and two current trainees came with us. This provided the opportunity to get to know them in an informal environment and ask lots of questions.
We were also accompanied by Barry and Jan, our team leaders. They had a wealth of experience with these trips and were particularly knowledgeable and reassuring.
We stayed in Romania for a week. Our days on site began at 9am and finished around 5pm. We all took part in different tasks which were then rotated throughout the week so we got to try everything. The tasks included drilling, mixing and pouring concrete, laying bricks, cutting wood, erecting scaffolding and interior walls and creating wood supports for insulation.
We worked on four houses in total. In each, there were two rooms downstairs and the upstairs was yet to be divided. The majority of the external walls were completed when we got there, as was the flooring. However we created interior walls, did exterior work, reinforcements and prep for the roof.
After a hard day’s work on site, we returned to the hotel, washed the concrete out of our hair, rested our tired limbs and discussed life at the firm over dinner.
While in Romania, we had the chance to visit the homes of some of the families we were building houses for and also families who had already moved in to homes built by Habitat volunteers. This opened our eyes to how life changing the work that Habitat for Humanity does and how important all our blood, sweat and tears throughout the week were. These families were living in conditions that were not fit for occupation and Habitat was giving them the home they dreamed of.
It is fair to say that the AG Romania trip is a week I will never forget. I came away from it feeling that I had not only contributed to an excellent cause but also that I had made a great bunch of friends. And my first day at work the following week was definitely a lot less daunting.