Cindy and Peter Cambrier worked on a Habitat build in Sisters. photo provided
Cindy and Peter Cambrier worked on a Habitat build in Sisters. photo provided
Sisters Habitat for Humanity recently benefitted from the efforts of two couples that are part of the Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanner program.

Care-A-Vanners are Habitat volunteers who either live the recreational vehicle (RV) life on the road full-time, or just squeeze in an adventure when they can and help build homes wherever they are needed. Usually Care-A-Vanners travel in large groups and make a huge impact wherever they stop and volunteer their skills. Some prefer to travel alone or in pairs as “orphans” and are less dependent on a schedule. Since Sisters Habitat builds homes year-round, many “orphans” enjoy coming here whenever they are available. In this era of COVID-19, more and more Care-A-Vanners are traveling alone or in smaller groups.

Some Care-A-Vanners are trained Disaster Rebuild Teams to help communities recover after a disaster. There are many skilled, and unskilled, volunteer opportunities available throughout the country.

Dan and Susie Campaña and Cindy and Peter Cambrier are two Care-A-Vanner couples who recently worked on a Sisters Habitat home in the Village Meadows neighborhood.

Cindy and Peter Cambrier (and their Vizsla puppy, Lily) spent two weeks working on a home-build here in Sisters. They have been full-time RVers and Sisters Habitat volunteers for six years. Originally from Michigan, they discovered Sisters while on their way to visit their grown children in Portland. A secondary draw to Sisters is the great fly-fishing rivers nearby.

While talking about how much they love this area, Cindy said, “Local volunteers are incredible and are very welcoming. They seem happy to see us! The volunteers we’ve met are such good people who care about their community. The local full-time volunteers blow our minds with their dedication to building homes in all types of weather, all year long.”

Peter describes his wife as a “professional volunteer” who has done unpaid professional work with hospice, Big Brothers Big Sisters, raised money for food banks, and was a former Michigan State board member for the League of Women Voters.

Before his retirement, Peter worked for the ShoreBank of Chicago, a small business lender that worked with nonprofit loans.

Cindy said that Habitat’s mission of building homes is very meaningful for her. She saw her mom struggle as a renter dealing with higher and higher rents while raising a family on her own. Her mom always said that if she owned a house, she would “feel secure.” Cindy said she “feels for people raising a family living on the edge.”

As full-time RVers, they often miss the sense of community that they had in owning a home in a city. Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanners helps fill that void.

Dan and Susie Campaña are Habitat Care-a-Vanners from Southern California who travel throughout the United States and Canada helping build Habitat for Humanity homes. But that is only part of their story.

Dan is a college professor who teaches philosophy and religious philosophy. His wife, Susie, is a self-proclaimed “professional volunteer” who works with youth gangs, women’s shelters, and homeless issues in south Los Angeles.

They are parents to two adult children, a son and a daughter, who are following their parents’ example and generously give of themselves to their communities. Two years ago, mother and daughter did a home building trip to Vietnam. Mother and son worked on a house build in Canada. The family has always built or remodeled their own homes so their children learned how to build. When the children were growing up, their friends wanted to learn how to build houses, too.

So, Dan and Susie organized week-long trips every year (for 19 years!) to an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, where they built or repaired whatever was needed. Dan and Susie had one requirements of their children’s friends — the friends’ parents also had to go with them and participate and learn.

Dan’s profession gives him the summers off, so they load up the motorhome and lend their skills to building homes with Habitat for Humanity around the country. Although the usual Care-a-Vanner travels in a large group of other committed builders for two weeks each year, another exception to the ‘large group’ rule, the Campanãs, often travel on their own and work as long as their schedule allows. Dan and Susie have been working in Sisters for the last five weeks now, their seventh year volunteering with Sisters Habitat for Humanity. They heard about Sisters Habitat while volunteering in Tillamook. Once they visited Sisters, they loved it! They said “Everyone here is so welcoming!”

They’ve been building Habitat homes since 2007 when they went to Slidell, Louisiana during the home rebuilding phase following Hurricane Katrina. They said there were hundreds of people working together to get folks back into homes. Volunteers in enormous mobile kitchens prepared and fed them the most amazing Southern food every day. They also participated in the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey in 2012

The Campañas love Habitat and its volunteers. They said that they have not only built homes; they have also built many friendships along the way. Susie said: “We are so grateful for what we have, we want to give back.” When they have extra time between builds, they stop in a town and ask if they have a Habitat ReStore. If so, they volunteer their time there.