May 10, 2013 – Fort Valley State University women are rolling up their sleeves to get down to work. On Saturday May11, Wildcat student Zoya Atkison, her sister Fayon and university employee Rosella Copper, will don their hard hats and take out their hammers, drills and power tools to build a new home for Middle Georgia during National Women’s Build Week. Houston County’s Habitat for Humanity, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have safe, affordable housing, is sponsoring this week’s build at 126 Orchard Way in Warner Robins, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to the organization, during National Women’s Build Week, women volunteers devote at least one day to helping eliminate poverty housing during the week-long event.
Rosella Cooper – volunteer organizer
Rosella Cooper, FVSU clerical assistant, helped to spearhead Houston County Habitat for Humanity’s National Women’s Build.
Cooper became involved with Habitat for Humanity while living in Harrisburg, PA, where she served on the board of directors. Cooper’s involvement with the organization continued when she moved to the Middle Georgia area.
“I went to an American Association of University meeting, and the president of the organization came out, and spoke with our group,” said Cooper. “She asked if anyone was interested in the Women’s Build. They were looking for help, and I ended up on the planning committee.”
Cooper and the Houston County Habitat for Humanity has been preparing for the National Women’s Build Week since 2012.
“This is the first women’s build that they’re doing for this area,” said Cooper. “And we were really pleased that we could get as many women as we could to get involved. Most of our money lenders were women’s businesses. We were looking to raise $20,000, and we’ve almost reached that amount. By the time this is over, we will have reached our goal. Last week, we had $18,000, and more is coming in.”
Fayon and Zoya Atkinson – sister builders
Fayon and Zoya Atkinson are two sisters participating on this week’s build. The pair is originally from Jamaica, but now live in Warner Robins.
On campus, the two siblings are powerhouses, excelling inside and outside of the classroom. Zoya is a 21-year-old senior majoring in animal science. She currently serves as a Student Government Association senator, and is the president of the senior class senators. Zoya is also the reigning Miss MANORRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), and an Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society member.
“This year, I was also the vice president for FVSU’s animal science club, and it was my job, that semester, to coordinate volunteer opportunities for my group, who were looking for ways to give back to our community,” said Zoya. After volunteering for several organizations, a fire was lit within Atkinson, who decided that she wanted to continue helping other families.
“I decided that I wanted to help build a home for someone,” said Atkinson, who explained that she often witnessed aunts, uncles and other family members constructing homes in Jamaica. “I wanted to give a family something that they could go home to; something that they owned.”
In 2012, Atkinson met Hope Hicks, the Houston County Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator, during a Christmas fundraiser to purchase materials for a build.
“All of the money went to supplies we needed for the new family house we were building,” said Zoya. That meeting led to Atkinson volunteering to help build homes with the community.
“I told my sister, Fayon, ‘This is good, you should definitely come to the meetings’,” saidZoya. “She met Hope, and then decided to get involved.”
“I always wanted to be part of Habitat for Humanity, and my sister introduced me to the women’s build,” said Fayon, a 20-year-old FVSU alumna. Like her sister, Fayon is also a high-achiever that stays busy. She was president of the math club and a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Alpha Lambda Delta, Beta Kappa Chi, Louis Stokes Alliance Minority Participation Program. The new Alpha Kappa Alpha soror also serves onFVSU’s SGA community service committee. She is also a Humane Society volunteer.
“I went to the first meeting and fell in love. The women in the group are older, but I liked it immediately. I’ve gone every month, and have enjoyed it ever since. I thought that the purpose was really great.”
Atkinson says that the build will not only help families, it also arm women with the skills they’ll need to become more independent by becoming handy with tools, in a field usually dominated by men.
“I like when women take charge,” said Fayon.
In Feb. 2013, the two sisters demonstrated their skills by creating headers for homes.
“We worked with the men to also put together foundations for homes,” said Fayon. Zoyastates that the two also used tools like hammers and circular saws. The duo hammered tiles on roofs and painted walls. Additionally, they attended workshops at Lowe’s and Home Depot, where they learned construction and home improvement skills.
Last Saturday, Fayon graduated Magna Cum Laude with her bachelor’s degree in mathematics during FVSU’s 72nd Spring Commencement Ceremony. She will be attending the University of Georgia to earn a master’s in mechanical engineering. This Saturday Fayon and Zoya will assist other women with a new build. Next week, Zoya will begin an internship with the USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center.