Ben Wolstenholme Helping out at a Habitat Booth

Our resident Homeowner Services Specialist Ben just completed his first year of service and took the step of signing up for his second term at AmeriCorps.  It’s thanks to the hard work of people like Ben that Habitat for Humanity Seattle – King County can continue serving our community.

After graduating from college, Ben lived with his parents working service jobs to slowly pay off his student loans. He did that for a few years and was considering heading off to law school but made the decision to join the Habitat for Humanity – AmeriCorps program instead.

Ben learned about Habitat for Humanity when his career counselor in college mentioned it as an option, he likes the idea of helping people and several friends he knew had already applied.

As our resident Homeowner Services Specialist, Ben explains the housing application process to potential homeowners and helps them through their applications. Essentially, Ben acts as the liaison between the applicants and the staff in homeowner services.

Ben told me about a time about a year ago when he was tasked with helping people with SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas) from Afganistan. Basically, an SIV is someone who helped out the United States Government (for example as a translator) who was then given a visa to thank them for their service. When people with SIVs come to the US they are coming from a wartorn country, and usually have no financial support or family to lean on. Ben reached out to a lot of non-profits that work with immigrants and found a group of SIV holders who needed help finding affordable housing for themselves and their families.

Many of the SIV immigrants were working 9-5 jobs while also taking night classes to get their lives back to the point where they were when they were living in Afganistan. Ben was able to place many of them in houses with their families, and he remembers being struck by just how grateful they all were for his help.

Coming from a comfortable middle-class family, Ben tells me he never had to worry about rent or housing. He tells me he always knew intellectually of course that people struggled with housing, rent, etc – but knowing that and actually seeing it are very different things. Joining AmeriCorps allowed him to learn about other cultures and backgrounds and really opened his eyes to the need for affordable housing and the importance of all the work Habitat for Humanity does.

Thanks for all the hard work Ben!