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WCC teens give back to ReStore


WCC group captured by volunteer photographer Mia Zheng.

Last week, 23 teens from across the world came together as part of their community service-oriented summer program to volunteer at our office and ReStore. Across two days, this group of all-women volunteers rolled up their sleeves to make an impact with Honolulu Habitat. They assisted with dozens of tasks: from testing power tools and organizing our donation receiving area, to painting walls and mopping floors. 

They were here as part of a 20-day program with Westcoast Connection (WCC), an organization that focuses on creating safe and fun environments where teens are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and explore the world around them. This summer, WCC offered the opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture and make a difference by working with several Hawaii nonprofit organizations.

Lauren and Hope are two of the young women who traveled with WCC this summer. In good spirits and covered in handprints of bright blue paint (some intentional, some not), they stepped aside from their paint rollers and brushes to share their volunteer experience.

Lauren, a 15-year-old from Toronto, is in her second year with WCC. Last summer, Lauren traveled to Costa Rica learning how to protect wildlife and serving local communities. Next year, she plans participate in a similar program in Ecuador.  

For her, the most rewarding part of voluntourism is learning about other cultures and helping the people (and animals) that need it the most; that is, the ones who do not have advocates.  

“I’ve always kind of known that I want to be able to do something to help other people,” she shared, reflecting on what the program has taught her, “but I’ve realized I want to focus on people who don’t normally get the help they deserve.”    

In addition to volunteering at ReStore, WCC teens volunteered with Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, Malama i na Honu and ECO Maui over the course of their 20-day program.  

Hope, 16, is visiting Hawaii and ReStore for the first time. Originally from Wisconsin, Hope learned about WCC from a friend and program alumni who had recommended the opportunity. During her two days volunteering at ReStore, there was no job too big or too small for Hope.  

She views this experience as both an opportunity to do meaningful work and to bond with other young volunteers through problem solving and teamwork. “Even though we are working and doing service, we’re all having fun with it.” Hope enjoys knowing that by working together and having fun at ReStore, they are also helping families in Hawaii build and improve a place to call home.  

Serving Hawaii’s communities has reminded Hope that while we all come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, we are all human. “I learned that a lot of people in Hawaii grew up so differently [than I did], but also the same.” When asked about one takeaway from her time volunteering at ReStore and across the islands, she expressed that for each organization they visited, “everyone was different, but they all enjoyed being there together. I thought that was pretty special.” 

ReStore has partnered with WCC for several years, providing enriching volunteer opportunities to teens from across the globe each summer. This was their first time returning to Hawaii since the pandemic.  

Grace Gilmore, student lead proctor of the program, says the continuation of the program has offered the staff and girls a unique opportunity to “connect with the people of Hawaii, the environment, and members of community, and to understand how to be respectful and appreciative of this place and the people who are here.” 

Thanks to our volunteer photographer, Mia Zheng, for capturing WCC’s time with ReStore!

Every volunteer is invaluable to helping families in our community build strength and stability through safe and affordable homeownership. By volunteering at your local ReStore, you are not only supporting your local community, but you’re also helping the mission to provide decent shelter to everyone around the world.  

Want to learn more? Check out our current volunteer opportunities or contact us at today!   


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