Women Build Profile: GE Digital Women’s Network

Our second week of Women Build kicked off with volunteers from our title sponsor, GE Digital, joining NOAHH on site. Women from GE Digital’s New Orleans office were joined by NOAHH partner families (including Women Build partner family Monica), NOAHH staff, and a few other local women as they painted the interior of the home and started putting up siding. As longtime partners of NOAHH, GE Digital has had a great impact in New Orleans East, where they have helped build homes for the past four years, including on America Street. To Shantelle Miles, a Software Developer Engineer with GE, being in New Orleans East made the work more meaningful.

“I grew up in New Orleans East,” she said. “I moved away before Katrina hit, and then I came back. When I moved back to New Orleans, no other place felt better than to see work in New Orleans East, because it was still struggling so much. It feels so great to see houses come back, neighborhoods come back, because New Orleans East is a very great community where it’s very close knit, very close, and very family-oriented.”

For Women Build, GE Digital’s Women’s Network was a natural fit.

“What brought me out here today is the person we’re building the house for,” said Jenn Gardache, a Staff Quality Assurance Analyst. “I think it’s important that everybody should be able to live in a house. And it’s Women Build, so that makes me feel kinda proud. This is gonna be built for women by women.”

“I’m very excited to be at New Orleans’ first Women Build site,” said Shantelle. “We’re excited to be in partnership with NOAHH. I did some research and saw that Habitat for Humanity has been doing these for years across the country. I’m glad New Orleans decided to have a women-only build site, and that we can be part of history.”

The all-woman build provided a special atmosphere for the women of GE Digital.

“Working with GE volunteers and non-GE volunteers was amazing,” said Padmaja Ustili, a Quality Assurance Engineer. “Everybody was communicating. It’s my first time here, so I was asking a lot of questions. [The women on staff] were able to answer without hesitation. They were ready to help.”

“As for what it’s been like being out here, it’s been very collaborative,” said Jenn. “It’s fun. We’re having a good time. We’re singing a cappella. It’s a good time for a good cause.”

Over the course of their day, the GE Digital volunteers saw the home transform inside and out as the blue wrap on the outside was covered in siding and the interior walls were coated first in white primer and later in its first coat of paint.

“I was amazed,” said Padmaja. “This is the first time I’m doing anything for a house. Even for my house, I never did anything. I started off here with painting. i was skeptical of starting, but once I came here and I started it, I painted one whole wall and one side of the window before lunch. Now I’m pretty confident I can do my daughter’s room. I was a little bit skeptical because I thought maybe I would not be useful. After coming here, with the help of other people, I felt pretty accomplished that I was able to help painting the inside of the home. It’s an amazing transformation.”

“It’s great to see the progress,” said Shantelle. “When I first started, the first room didn’t have anything on it. I painted all the ceiling, and now I’m working on the back room. This is my third or fourth Habitat for Humanity project. We do one every year, one with all our employees. We come in and build a site so we see a finished product, we see the beginning product where we put up the studs, so it’s great to always help the community.”

On site, they worked with Monica, whose home they were building, as well as Andrea, who has been in her home for over a year; Shawna, who was working her first day of sweat equity on the build site; and Nicole, who is Monica’s future next door neighbor.

“My favorite thing is when we get to meet the homeowners,” Shantelle. “Several times we got the chance to work with the homeowners, to build on their house that they were working on and see their excitement and joy, to finally have a house of their own. A lot of people struggle or never had a house. A lot of kids never had their own bedroom, so the mothers are so excited to help provide for their children with a nice decent home.”