UNC Rowing Lends a Helping Hand
By: Emma Shaw
Athletes on campus are revered for their athletic prowess, mastery of skill, and hours of preparation to keep an edge over their competition. However, on Saturday February 5th, one group of athletes felt anything but masters of their trade. Seven members of the Carolina Rowing team stood on the sidewalk of Phoenix Place, eager to help with UNC’s Build A Block Habitat for Humanity project and unsure of the task ahead.
While rowers might be tough as nails, we certainly don’t know anything about handling them. I laughed with my teammates as we knocked nail after nail off the piece of wood we were trying to secure. The occasional successful attempt at hammering was rewarded with enough cheers from teammates to make our site manager embarrassed. Despite our initial incompetence, we fully understood our inexperience and were equally impressed with our instructor’s ease in dealing with us.
Gradually, and thankfully, we got used to our duties. We aligned large sheets of wood with “spuds” or beams providing the basic structure of the house and hammered the two pieces together with increasing speed (and accuracy). Soon we were applying insulation, differentiating between various types of nails, and taping over the edges of the insulation to provide a watertight seal. Even at the end of our four-hour shift, we were far from experts.
We still watched in awe as our instructor and site manager pulled himself up to the top of the house, swung his leg over, and pried off a misplaced nail all in one motion. We still cheered when it took few hits on the head to drive the nail all the way into the wall. Our instructor was surely no less amused at our celebration of standard tasks. The most noticeable difference over the course of our four hours in Phoenix Place was the appearance of the house we had been hammering. Now, instead of a wide-open floor plan striated with vertical beams every foot and a half, the house was fully enclosed by walls and wrapped up in blue foam. Although we are used to working together as a team, few of the changes we make have such immediate or tangible effects.
I’m sure that to the relief of the site manager, none of my teammates or I am looking to begin a career in carpentry or architecture. However, despite our inexperience and silly celebrations, we had the rare opportunity to help build a house. In place of our usual familiarity with the activities we engage in, we left the site nervous that we had produced walls sturdy enough to provide a home for a family.
Regardless of how little we felt at home nailing walls together, a few individuals will in a matter of months. When the project is completed, we hope they’ll know that we feel as lucky to have contributed as they might to have a new roof over their heads.