Last week I was in Mt Vernon, Iowa - a small town on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids, where 2 years ago there was massive flooding, the 5th worst natural disaster in US history. I was a part of the Habitat for Humanity International and AmeriCorps Build-a-thon. Last year, on the 1 year anniversary of the floods, we were also working in Cedar Rapids. When the river flooded, it not only ruined downtown buildings and the local Habitat affiliate office, it also flooded a large percentage of the affordable housing stock in the area - shocker that it doesn't cost as much to live in the flood plain and that many of those families didn't have/coulnd't afford flood insurance. Now that another year has gone by, we once again were working with the local Habitat affiliate to build new, affordable homes for Habitat partner families, but this year we also added some projects that rehabilitated some already existing homes and helped the affiliate start their "A Brush With Kindness" program, which helps those who already own their home maintain the outside of it. This is a growing need across the country and I know it's just a matter of time before we have the program going here in Kansas City.
As always, Build-a-thon was a great experience where I got to meet people who work with Habitat affiliates all across the country. I always enjoy hearing about how different affiliates are doing essentially the same work but all doing it a little differently, whether due to organization structure, management styles, or just the specifics of the local community. I love meeting people with a passion for this work and hearing about how they do it. It was a little bittersweet this year since this was likely my last Build-a-thon; my new position as Faith Relations means that I will no longer be overseeing the AmeriCorps program at my Habitat affiliate. But my new position also means that I get to grow and stretch myself in new ways, and get to focus fully on building relationships with local churches and the work we're doing in the urban core of Kansas City.
The biggest downside to my week in Iowa is that I got sick - nothing major, but my first night there I was slammed with a summer cold. There was one day I felt bad enough that I didn't go work on site, but stayed in bed instead. By the time I got home on Friday morning, it had developed into bronchitis. I went to a clinic at one of the chain drug stores and got my prescriptions, and am generally feeling much better. I'm still not 100% but it has me thinking about how lucky I am. I not only got to be a part of this great event and travel with some great people, but when I got home I was able to just go get the care that I needed. My insurance through work allowed me to pay just $20 for my visit to the clinic and the prescriptions were paid for through my flexible spending account. It was easy, relatively quick and didn't break the bank. But that's because I took advantage of opportunities that I had through work. Many people don't have these opportunities. If I didn't have insurance, what would I have done? Gone to the ER? How much would that bill cost? There are a hundred or more things wrong with the healhcare system in this country and I know that I have no idea how to fix it. But I also know how grateful I am to have what I have.