Many people are familiar with Habitat for Humanity but they are not aware that you can participate in Habitat and have an RV experience at the same time.
RV Care-A-Vanners has been on our radar screen for several years. We've longed for the day when we could take two weeks and help build a house. We've always enjoyed the one-day builds (on multiple weekends) done through our church and employer. So a two-week stint sounded like good fun, fellowship and adventure.
Our first time with RV Care-A-Vanners was a recent build in Dade City, Florida (just northeast of Tampa). The two week experience was everything we hoped it would be. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other RVers, meeting the local Habitat personnel, working on the house(s), meeting the new homeowner, etc.
Based on discussion with other first-timers and some who have Care-A-Vanned for a number of years, each build is different, but each is a wonderful experience. We liked it every bit as much as we hoped and have signed up for another and are tentatively planning on several more. They fill up fast so you have to watch the build list regularly so you can find locations that suit your destinations.
Click here for the build list
When we choose a location we look for volunteer camps with sewer hookups at the site. Some camps offer a dump location, some have a dump station off-site and some have a sewer hookup. We don't need to dump every day but we certainly cannot go two weeks without dumping. So be sure to look for that and be aware of your needs.
The volunteer camp sites will vary (sometimes dramatically) from one Habitat affiliate to another. The location in Dade City was several contiguous city lots that had been made into an RV area that would handle about 20 rigs parked closely together. We've been told some volunteer camps are in parking lots, some are in local campgrounds. It depends...
One fellow we worked with told us about a Beatitude that is not found in the Bible - blessed are the flexible for they shall not be permanently bent out of shape. This motto applies to working with Habitat in general and certainly applies to RV Care-A-Vanners. Approach your camping area and various work assignments with compromise and empathy and you'll be fine. You will likely not be staying in an RV resort and your work assignments may simply be picking up trash.
We've found Habitat allows each individual to work at their level of ability and desire. If you want to learn new skills at the job site there will be people around that will help. It's not an official training program by any means but people around you will help. There will be times when things are slow - ran out of materials, waiting for another group to finish, weather delays, and other problems. At that point just think about "blessed are the flexible...." and find another job - pick up nails, pick up trash, sweep the floor - whatever needs to be done.
Many Habitat affiliates also have other volunteer opportunities. Check with the location you are considering and see what's going on in the area. Some affiliates have a ReStore (second hand shop) that needs manpower, you may be able to help with homeowner training classes, you may be able to work in the office. There are volunteer possibilities other than swinging a hammer.
Keep track of your expenses. Items that can be attributed to the Habitat build are tax deductible. Check with an accountant but I suspect you can itemize your mileage to/from your home (or previous location), your meals (or at least some of them), your camp fee if there is one, and other related expenses.
In closing, we loved it and hope to help on many more builds. We're on a wait list for an upcoming build and we will be signing up for several more. I hope you enjoy your experience as much as we enjoyed our time.