By Bill Mullet
Recently 18 ProVia employees traveled to Bacau, Romania to participate in a very special mission – building homes for those in need with the Habitat for Humanity organization. It was a mind-opening and heart-warming experience for all, and here we share some candid stories from this “adventure with a purpose.”
I have a thing for Romania. My relationship with this European country goes way back to 1995-96 when I served there as the Director of a teaching ministry program, and also as the Director of an orphanage. During this time I really did learn to love the Romanian people. They’re very warm and delightful, and we fell in love with them.
The Romanian people have lots of needs, and in particular the very poor in the countryside have a huge need for basic housing. Habitat for Humanity Romania targeted a very specific population, the people who have a job and can actually pay for a house but have a difficult time coming up with a down payment that would enable them to improve their housing situation. One of the people receiving a house we built is a night manager at McDonald’s, which is considered a very good job.
Another requirement for the home recipients is they have to personally volunteer their own labor in building the group of homes for that particular project. Each family has to work 1,000 hours, and not just on their own home, they have to work on everyone else’s as well.
The families were extraordinarily excited and grateful. A lot of times they’d be virtually in tears because this was something they’d always felt was out of their reach. My wife Ellen and I had the opportunity to visit one of the family’s current homes, and they were just surviving there with one bedroom, a very tiny living room and a mini- kitchen for the four people who lived there. This husband and wife were on the jobsite working all the time, and they were extremely good workers. Many of the families worked very hard.
“It Makes Me Feel Good”
Chatting with a young Romanian lady working next to us, I asked if she was student. I was surprised when she said she was 30 years old. She looked like she could have been 17. Then I asked, “What makes you come out here and do this? She replied, “I just volunteered to come work for a couple of days.” Again I asked, “Why?” After a brief pause, she said, “It makes me feel good.” That was an interesting comment, because it shows that within us, there’s something that feels good, that is rewarding, when we are able to help someone who is unable to repay us. I believe our entire ProVia team would have said the same thing!
A Rewarding Contribution
The ProVia team arrived on Saturday October 3 and worked through the 9th. Then we hired a small bus and toured Romania through the Carpathian Mountains. I couldn’t have asked for a better team than the ProVia folks who joined this trip. Even though some of them had no construction experience, they worked very diligently and did a super job. For all of us, we felt like this trip was so worthwhile, not just for the experience but because we were able to make a contribution. It was very fulfilling.
When we returned home, everyone who participated in the trip was asked to share their impressions during a company presentation. Below are just a few quotes from their speeches.
Danielle Horne, Order Entry Representative:
“After Day 1 of working on my assigned Habitat house I had a surreal moment of ‘ME’ building a house in Romania. Me – an inexperienced female office worker, building a house alongside Romanians and many others around the world! I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be useful and I had no idea what to expect. But by the end of the first day I knew how to hammer nails and which hammer I wanted to use the next day. By the end of the week I had helped put up the frame of the house and walls, set up scaffolding, put up some insulation, stucco, and painted the outside of the house. I had the blisters to prove it.
The homeowners were so happy and so grateful, it just added to the accomplishment our team felt. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to do a build, I encourage you to take it. You may think you’re going just to travel and help others, but it may end up impacting you more in return.”
Kendra Mullet, Production:
“During our sightseeing we had the opportunity to visit the incredible Philadelphia School, which ProVia sponsors on a monthly basis. They even have ProVia windows and doors! From what I gather it is a very well run school and probably one of the best ones in Romania.
Later we drove through the beautiful, picturesque Carpathian Mountains. For someone who has never been in the mountains I was amazed at God’s magnificent creation! This was one of the highlights of my trip, with rock formation as high as the eye could see, rolling hills of forest and small communities in the valleys. It was an honor to live out the ProVia purpose and it makes me happy to know I was able to help.”
Herbie Kaufman, Receiving:
“I enjoyed the bus ride from Bucharest to Bacau and learning about how people lived the same as they did during communism. People didn’t want to change. I had to ask myself, would I have changed, and do I accept change now when it comes along?
It was an interesting but rewarding challenge, working side by side not being able to speak the same language. It was also interesting that we had almost perfect weather during all the construction days. There were two days when it was supposed to rain, and we could actually look out and see it was raining all around us. It missed us both of those days, and I knew God’s hand was controlling the weather.”
Mihai Cotlet, Design Engineer:
“I’m originally from Romania, and I lived there until I was 13, when my family moved to the U.S. I have worked at ProVia for 13 years and I was really excited about the opportunity to go back to Romania to help build homes for people in need. It was awesome to see the way God placed a calling in people’s hearts to go and help people way across the ocean.
Some people asked me, why did we send a team to Romania? Why didn’t we just send money? Being able to meet the families and work side by side with them adds to the experience since you get to meet the people you are helping. I honestly feel a lot closer now to the people from ProVia that went along on this trip and it was a pleasure to be part of the ProVia Team! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to go and serve in the country where I was born and raised.”
Keith Miller, Testing Lab Manager:
“40 volunteers on one building can be quite chaotic. One supervisor and a lot of skillsets, or lack thereof, from these volunteers. Our supervisor was Vio. He was a really good carpenter, gave clear direction, was a good teacher and had patience with us while making sure things were done right. I became pretty good friends with Vio throughout the week. We communicated with hand signs and Mihai translating. When they would be having a conversation in Romanian, Mihai would have this grin on his face and I would ask, what are you saying? His only reply was, “Vio is glad you guys are on his team.”
I later learned that Vio was one of the first Habitat house recipients in Romania. At that time Habitat recognized his carpenter skills and hired him as a supervisor. A good example of how Habitat helps the less fortunate and provides the opportunity for them to give back.”
Leroy Yoder, Industrial Engineer:
“One of the challenges at the job site was working with 175 to 200 volunteers per day. That’s a lot of people that had to be given jobs and kept busy. As far as tools, there were no air tools; we used an electric chop saw and a circular saw. When we were on the roof we used good old-fashioned handsaws to cut 1”x2” slats. Language was somewhat of a barrier. Some people did not speak English but each home had at least one interpreter that spoke English and Romanian.
As far as the experience, it was great to be able work with the homeowners side-by-side, realizing that we were helping them build something they could not accomplish on their own. We literally saw their home become a reality to them.”
Pete Schwartz, Customer Service Representative:
“One of my favorite parts of the Romania trip was interacting with the locals. It’s hard to know what to expect when traveling to a foreign country, especially when you are unfamiliar with the culture, but the Romanian people couldn’t have been more beautiful. On the first day I befriended a high school student named Vlad who was working as a translator. I enjoyed learning a few simple words and phrases in Romanian such as “thank you” (multumesc) and “good” (bine). Often times people would giggle when I tried using these words but I think it was a bit endearing because I was taking the time to learn their language.
At ProVia we have 19 Core Values that we try to adhere to on a daily basis. I believe many of these values, things such as Quality, Teamwork, and Compassion, were on display at the job site. We also have a common purpose, ‘To let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.’ I truly believe ProVia’s light was shining brightly in Romania.”