With her hard hat in hand, 17-year-old Daisy waves goodbye to her parents as she steps onto the Kingdom Hall construction site to join the volunteer HVAC crew.
Daisy, who has an interest in construction, chose to spend the summer of 2022 volunteering on the construction site of a new Kingdom Hall in Porterville.
“I’ve never been so happy to be a part of something and learn new skills – to go somewhere safe and work with people that feel the same way,” said Daisy. “It’s been unlike any other experience.”
Women represent only 3.9% of tradespeople working in construction nationally, according to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
By contrast, the Witnesses’ construction projects regularly see large percentages of female volunteers, both skilled and unskilled.
“We would be lost without our vast number of women volunteers,” said Robert Hendriks,
U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Their attention to detail, high quality of work and infectious enthusiasm are all vital to the success of our building projects.”
When the Witnesses moved their headquarters from Brooklyn, New York, upstate to the town of Warwick in recent years, the construction project drew some 27,000 volunteers from around the country, 25% of whom were women — like Kierstin Golec of Huntington, Massachusetts.
Golec and fellow female volunteers were assigned to site excavation efforts within days of arriving on the project. They received intensive training to operate heavy equipment right alongside the men on the crew. Golec vividly recalls the first time she came face to face with the dump truck she would soon be driving.
“I approached the vehicle, and the tires were taller than me!” she said. “It was a surreal, humbling and exciting experience.”
Reflecting on the three years she spent volunteering on the build, Golec says she will not forget the confidence shown in her and other female volunteers.
“All of us, men and women, were trained so we could be involved to the fullest extent
possible,” she said. “They displayed a lot of trust in us equally, and I’m forever grateful to have been treated with such dignity.”
Daisy expressed a similar sentiment about the Porterville Kingdom Hall build. The project has helped the high school graduate decide what trade she wants to pursue. “I didn’t feel ‘less than’ for being new or a young girl,” she said. “No matter what trade I helped with, everyone was being trained the same. All of us young women volunteering felt wanted, needed and respected.”