Faculty builds better lives for families

“Sheridan community builders will leave a legacy,” said Asta Dvorak.

“Sheridan community builders will leave a legacy,” said Asta Dvorak. (Photography by Mehreen Shahid/ The Sheridan Sun)


What happens when a baker’s usual ingredients are replaced with cement, a hammer, nails and wrenches? She builds herself a house.

Farah Whyte and her four children are halfway through building their new home on Torbram Road in Brampton.

“We’re very excited,” said the 41-year-old baker. “We’re already done with half my house.”

Professors and administrative staff from Sheridan’s Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies teamed up with Habitat for Humanity in September to lend a hand building three of 18 houses for low-income families in Brampton. Habitat for Humanity called out to the volunteers for its GTA Women Build.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community,” said Mary Ventrella, a professor in the Child and Youth Care program. “And I get to participate in a community activity with my colleagues.”

When all the work is done, participant families, such as Whyte’s, will own a $211,000 home with a no-interest mortgage from Habitat for Humanity that can be paid off over 25 years.

Land for all 18 houses was been donated by the City of Brampton.

Donations from volunteers contributed toward making the event a success. Sheridan faculty raised close to $6,300 for the Community Builder Program and they’re still accepting more donations.

“We are going to continue to fundraise,” said Nellie Sheppard, co-ordinator and professor in the Social Service Worker (Gerontology) program.

“We had a silent auction and our dean provided a ride on his Harley for $1,000. We also had a bake sale.”

Participant families make down payments in the form of  “sweat equity.” Each member of the family volunteers 500 community hours. They can do so by helping out at the build site or at the ReStore (a retail store run by Habitat for Humanity).


“It’s a hand-up, not a hand down,” said Kristin Philpot, director of individual giving for Habitat for Humanity. “We help the families out by keeping in touch with them even after they’ve bought the house. We offer them financial and home ownership training so they can look after the house.”

Whyte decided to make her down payment by lending a hand at the build site for her own house.

“I like working on the site because it’s good for learning,” she said. “It’s been educational and empowering.”

The event also let students in the Community Worker and Outreach Development program complete their co-ops. Chivonne Campbell, 27, knows exactly how people struggling with poverty and homelessness feel.

“I was an immigrant, and I remember my family’s struggles and difficulties. Knowing that something like this is helping to give them their peace of mind makes it important for me.”

At the end of the eight-hour shift, with a third of each of the three houses completed, the superheroes returned home feeling on top of the world.


Habitat for Humanity Toronto’s 2011 and 2012 reports show the social impact its projects have had on participant families:

  • 76% of families reported immediate improvements in children’s grades and 93% say it is now easy for children to find space for doing school work.
  • 88% reported improvements in children’s confidence and 81% report an improvement in children’s social lives.
  • 84% reported improvements in asthma once they moved into the Habitat home.
  • 99% of families feel safe inside their new Habitat home as compared to 22% before they moved into a Habitat for Humanity home.
  • 97% report that they are now proud to tell employers and acquaintances where they live.
  • 93% of respondents say they will remain in their Habitat home for a very long time or can’t imagine ever moving.