Surrounded by nearly 100 community members, friends and family, 34-year-old Teah Laurine squinted against bright sunlight as she helped a dozen other women raise the first of many walls for the house she and her children soon will call home.
Part ceremony and part workday, the wall raising on the outskirts of south Medford was the kickoff for a five-month construction process. A single mother, Laurine hopes to spend the holidays this year in the new house just off Medford's Orchard Home Drive.
Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976, and the Rogue Valley chapter was initiated nine years later.
The basic principle of the program is to provide safe, affordable housing to families around the world.
To qualify, families must earn between 30 and 60 percent of federal median income for Jackson County, live in substandard housing and be willing to provide 500 hours of sweat equity.
Women Build events have helped construct 1,900 houses around the world.
Locally, Rogue Valley's chapter of Habitat for Humanity is seeking 30 women to volunteer for WATCH (Women Accepting the Challenge of Housing) to raise $1,000 each toward the all-women housing site.
For information or to volunteer, call 541-779-1983 or see www.roguevalleyhabitat.org
One of six houses planned for the same neighborhood by Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity, Laurine's house also is the Rogue Valley's first Women Build, a growing initiative for the international organization to construct homes solely with women's labor.
Living in a duplex in "the not-so-safe part" of Medford, Laurine has been a single parent for the past three years. She works full time as an externship coordinator for Abdill Career College, helping others realize their dreams.
While she is able to meet her family's basic needs — after a few tumultuous years and frequent moves — her dream of home ownership was a virtual impossibility before she applied for Habitat for Humanity's program to help families and communities build homes together.
Under the nonprofit Habitat program, families and communities provide 500 hours of "sweat equity" toward construction of a new house, and a deserving family is awarded a no-interest mortgage. Two hundred of the 500 hours are provided by the family.
Laurine says her children are eager to move out of their dilapidated duplex and into a safe neighborhood with quiet streets, old trees and friendlier faces.
"We can't wait to move in," she says. "Where we live now, we call the cops a lot.
"Our next-door neighbor has mushrooms growing off his house and black mold all over one side. I'm sure that isn't healthy to have so close to our house. And our place ... really needs a lot of help. We're so excited to get this opportunity to change our lives."
Sarah Naumes Primerano, executive assistant for Habitat, says the Women Build project has attracted more than 100 volunteers. While the local chapter for Habitat has hosted "Women Build" construction days before, Laurine's house will be the first constructed entirely by women.
"Habitat International started the idea, and it's something we have wanted to do for a long time," says Primerano. "So men are only allowed on this job site in a teacher or advisory capacity."
With women still a minority in the construction industry, Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity construction manager Rich Armas says Laurine's house will be exciting for local women in the construction trades.
"Unfortunately, just by tradition, women have been excluded from the construction industry, so I couldn't find a woman excavator or a woman who did forms and foundations," says Armas.
"But ... we're going to build the home with all women. We'll have women plumbers, women electricians, painters, roofers ... the home itself will have been built entirely by women."
Armas surmises that the building site will provide a different dynamic for him to manage.
"I'm looking forward to it because women are absolutely capable of doing all these things that men do, and the best part is that women don't think they already know everything. They're very willing to be taught."
Laurine couldn't be more pleased that her house will be built by more than 100 wives, sisters, mothers and girlfriends in the region where she's lived her entire life.
"I'm so excited it's an all-women build because I think women, when we put our heads together, can get more accomplished than any man," says Laurine.
"Women are fun people, so this house is going to be a lot of fun. ... And when my house is done, hopefully I'll be able to give back and help someone else build their house, so their dreams can come true, too."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.