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Volunteering Transforms a Vocation

March 8, 2023
Amber DeBoer working at Community Builders
Amber DeBoer working at Community Builders
Photo: World Renew

For many World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) volunteers, reconstruction work builds skills they learn after a successful career. Feeling apprehensive yet hopeful, some volunteers go to their first reconstruction site after working for years in business, education, or other fields. They then learn how to install siding, lay flooring, or smooth drywall in homes damaged by a disaster. But what if rebuilding hope and serving disaster survivors could actually transform your vocation?

This is what Amber DeBoer discovered during a service trip with World Renew DRS and Act Five, a gap-year program in Hamilton, Ont. After deferring her admission to Laurentian University for zoology, DeBoer joined Act Five and found a placement at an animal rehabilitation clinic. Although she enjoyed working at the clinic, DeBoer said, she wasn’t sure that zoology was what she wanted to do. She continued to be unsure of her chosen vocation as she took classes and assessments with Act Five about discovering her calling. She wondered, “If I don’t pursue zoology, then what is the career path for me?”

Then, during her two-week, cross-cultural service trip with World Renew DRS and Act Five in Louisiana, DeBoer felt God’s nudge to go into the construction trades. As she was mentored by seasoned volunteers, Amber learned to install new siding on a home damaged during Hurricane Ida in 2021. In those two weeks, she said, she woke up every morning excited to work with her hands outdoors, creating something to help others for a greater purpose. Her peers noticed this as well, as they sparked conversations with DeBoer about pursuing a career in the trades.

DeBoer said she asked God if his plan for her life really included not pursuing university but applying to a technical school instead. Because construction work can be physically draining and there are few women builders, it was a big decision to ponder. Only 5 percent of skilled-trades workers in Canada and 4 percent in the United States are women. But DeBoer felt empowered, knowing that she was capable, and she trusted God to lead her.

With her family’s support, DeBoer joined a 14-week apprenticeship program at Community Builders, a construction company that builds low-income housing in Barrie, Ont. They provide opportunities for people who are underrepresented in the trades such as women, people of color, criminal record holders, and people without a high school diploma. DeBoer shadowed multiple trainers on different job sites and learned new skills such as installing insulation, drywall, framing, and more.

After finishing her apprenticeship, DeBoer joined another Act Five service trip, this time as a mentor. The group responded to Hurricane Hanna in Texas, and DeBoer taught students drywall and flooring skills. She also learned to hang doors.

DeBoer is currently pursuing opportunities in different companies to get started in the trades, and she said she looks to the future with confidence, knowing that God has written her story thus far.

World Renew aims to create opportunities for women across the world to experience justice and to thrive, and we’re grateful that God is rebuilding hope and homes to transform DeBoer’s story.