At 22, Rachel Weller has nearly a decade of homebuilding experience under her tool belt. She first volunteered as a high school freshman to build homes in Mexico. That mission trip led to many more and now a full-time job. In fact, she finished up her last semester at Purdue in interdisciplinary science through online courses, graduating in May. Stationed in El Paso, Texas, Rachel leads volunteer groups into Mexico (both Juárez and Acuña) and San Raimundo, Guatemala, where they can build a home in about four days. It's a demanding job, but she'd be happy making it a career.
- Casas por Cristo
Four-and-a-half years of French may not have prepared her for work in Mexico, but Rachel has picked up construction terms in Spanish and hopes to be fluent within a year or so. Languages aside, it's the mission of Casas por Cristo ("Houses for Christ") that translates into a meaningful job.
"I fell in love with the mission of Casas and the people and the culture of Mexico eight years ago," Rachel says. "I could no longer sit in the comfort of my own home while I knew that there were families out in the cold in need of a warm home."
- Residence lessons
Rachel worked as a staff resident in Hillenbrand Hall before she moved to Texas. She had been a resident assistant there, too. Helping younger students adapt to college life prepared her for her present-day challenges of building quality single-family homes quickly. "I learned so many lessons about supervising and leadership at Purdue," she says. "I use all of those skills today as I lead teams of volunteers on homebuilding sites."
- Empowering women
Rachel says she may be at her best when she's out on a build. Pouring concrete, raising walls and putting a roof on a home require an all-out team effort. This year, she led a spring-breaking group of 14 women and two men. "Most of the people on the team barely knew how to hold a hammer," says Rachel. "I love teaching young women how to use a power tool on a site. You can actually see the joy on their faces when they realize they can use it."
- Thrift shopaholic
Living in a border town like El Paso has its advantages. For Rachel, it resonates in her profound love of Mexican food, the west Texas terrain where she can hike with friends for an entire day and a slew of thrift shops up and down any street. "I really enjoy thrift shopping," she says. "There's a certain thrill that comes with getting things on the cheap."