Building a better future

Habitat for Humanity volunteer Ridgley Paxton is willing to get his hands dirty for a good cause.

When you work in an office every day, it can be refreshing to get out and do something active in your free time. And if that free time can also be used to help others, even better.

That's the idea that attracted 25-year-old civil engineer Ridgley Paxton to Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that offers truly practical help to people in housing need. Habitat for Humanity, with help from proud partner AMI, is aiming to transform the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through providing warm, dry housing, and Ridgley is a regular volunteer on projects with the Build team.

The idea of helping others in a hands-on way - rather than from a distance - attracted Ridgley to this charity, and he's felt the rewards as a result.

"I really enjoy it," he says. "My job is 80 per cent in the office. So, with this, I'm out there doing it, getting my hands involved. It's nice to change it up. It's a nice release as well.

"You're not asking someone else to do it. You are there, you're getting the work done and you're seeing the benefits. The people you're doing the work for, you see the joy in their faces and the happiness you can bring them. It's a direct benefit to them."

Ridgley has helped out on a range of projects, from community gardens to community trauma centres, as well as individual homes. He distinctly recalls working on the house of a man with limited mobility.

"For him, tending to anything outside was pretty tricky, so his garden was quite overgrown. We cleared it all out for him, and painted the exterior of his place."

Ridgley says there's a "great vibe" on Habitat for Humanity projects, which shows in the attitudes of all those involved.

"At the end of the day, everyone's the same," he muses. "Everyone's just there to help out. And you can kind of tell that if the roles were reversed, [the families] would do the same for you, and they appreciate what you're doing."

His fellow volunteers have been inspiring, too.

"They're from all walks of life and they all have different reasons for being there. It's nice to get to know strangers who share a common purpose."

For Ridgley, the flexibility of volunteering for Habitat works well with his busy life of work, socialising, rugby and netball. He thinks that's something that would attract others, too.

"You can kind of pick and choose when it suits you. I think a lot more people would do it if they knew that. [Whereas] a lot of volunteer things require time every week, and to not do it, you feel like you're letting people down."

Beyond the joy he gets from volunteering, Ridgley reckons everything Habitat is about is "pretty awesome".

"I think Habitat for Humanity's idea of it not being a handout, but a hand up - that's kind of what it feels like. You're in there. We can do this together; let's get it done. And then both of your lives are improved after it."

* AMI will pay the 12 month SeniorNet membership fee for any AMI customer over the age of 50 who joins before September 2022. Simply mention you are an AMI customer at your local SeniorNet Learning Centre and AMI will take care of the rest.