Image by Dzm1try / Shutterstock.

I just finished 11 months of barely paid work as an AmeriCorps member with the Oakland, Calif.-affiliate of Rebuilding Together — a nonprofit service organization that, when I describe it to people, invariably elicits the reply: “Oh, it’s just like Habitat for Humanity.”

Well, yes — and not so much …

See, this wasn’t my first stint working on low-income housing. Six years ago, I worked as an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity. My days were devoted to everything from setting rebar and pouring concrete to nailing shingles on rooftops. We built houses from the ground up, leading teams in sunshine and in fog to turn bare patches of land into mini-developments for low-income homeowners.