A conversation with Leigh, Habitat Northern’s all-rounder

Mar 8, 2023

My name is Leigh. I’m the assistant to Andrew Baker in the Habitat Northern workshop. Building, renovating and repairing items for the Habitat ReStore.


Is it all voluntary work?

Absolutely. Yes.


How did you get into volunteering with Habitat Northern?

I saw an ad on Facebook, they were looking for volunteers. I retired two years ago and for a year and a half I’d been wanting to get into building and making things because I do that at home, but I’d never used any of the big tools. I thought “I’ll have to end up going to uni, or something.” So I rang and I spoke to someone from Habitat. I told them that I’ve been making pallet furniture for myself at home. “I know the perfect job for you.” They said. I basically ran down here! *haha*

They had the foresight to see that, you know, that’s who I am.


Have you done much volunteering in the past?

Yes, I volunteered for Victim Support when it first started. I was a victim of a crime and I know what it feels like to be in that position, especially going through the court system where it’s totally foreign. Then I volunteered for Kea, and I was a Kea leader for a while. I’ve just helped out wherever people have needed it.


What led you to start volunteering?

The drive to help and share and give to people that need help, because I got help when I needed it. I think everybody should be able to give back what they’ve received, so I get a lot of pleasure in volunteering.


What sort of challenges do you face with volunteering at Habitat? And how do you overcome those?

I overcome any challenges with laughter. I reckon it’s the best way to get through, but I’ve got a really good teacher. Andrew is teaching me machinery I’ve never used before. I’m ‘old school’. I use a handsaw and hammer and everything. I’d never used a drop saw, or a nail gun. The challenge for me is learning those new tools. When you have a challenge like that, you need to stand back and listen to your teacher. To be a sponge and absorb everything they’re saying. Then laugh, enjoy yourself and have fun.


That’s what you’re there for, right?

Yes, to me, it’s fun coming to volunteer here at Habitat, but I’m also giving to people that really need it. It’s a win-win situation.


How would you describe the Habitat Northern community that you’re working with?

Absolutely brilliant. Everybody’s got the same mindset. Because of that, everybody’s here for a good reason, that is, to be able to help people. Everybody knows where the goal post is and there’s no secret agendas.


How do you feel about being a woman using tools that have often been seen as ‘male’ tools?

In my era, women were raised with the mind-set of the white picket fence, get married, have children, stay at home and make sure your home is beautiful. But I’m a farmer’s daughter, I wasn’t raised like that. I was raised to muck out in the shed and clean up the poop and use tools.

For women to come and do this, we can do whatever we want to do. We shouldn’t think that we can be put in slots. Whether it’s a male orientated situation, or whatever. I don’t actually think of it as a woman in the workshop. I think of it as a person that wants to do something in a workshop. The gender doesn’t need to actually come into it.


Which, by the sounds of it, is the workspace that you’re in at Habitat. Everyone can just be themselves.

Exactly. It’s not a male or a female or they situation. It’s purely, “I’m here to do a job, I’m doing it, and I’m having fun doing it.” And learning, oh gosh, it’s something you never stop doing.


What’s one word that you’d use to describe yourself?

It’s hard, because I’m a Pisces so I’m multiple things. I am no one thing. I have lots of different little pieces that make me up to who I am. I’m no one particular thing, I’m everything. Yes, Everything is my word.

A little bit of this and a little bit of that.


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