Anna Hendrix-Semenova met her wife, Ashley, in Milan, Italy. At the time, Anna was an employee at Whirlpool Corporation’s European headquarters in Milan, while Ashley worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in Stuttgart, Germany. Living in two different cities, they dating by flying over the Swiss Alps to see one another. In 2017, an engagement followed on Ashley’s birthday in Corsica, then marriage in June, 2019 in Newport, Rhode Island while Ashley attended the U.S. Naval War College.
Choosing a honeymoon destination proved a bit challenging, as both had extensive experiences traveling. They instead decided to plan a honeymoon experience over a destination.
Ashley had participated in her first Habitat for Humanity Global Village Build in Braga, Portugal in 2016, where she met many friends from across the U.S. The next year, she volunteered again along with her father. Due to the relationships she had made, and new skills she had learned, she felt a Habitat build seemed like a perfect way to celebrate their marriage.
A small action such as a participation in a build will have an impact on the entire community. This is definitely a gratifying experience that helps bring more good to the world.”
Instead of asking wedding guests to buy typical gifts from a registry, they suggested participants donate towards a trip to Amarante, Portugal, to volunteer for a Habitat for Humanity build. “Since I worked in the major appliance industry, the last thing we wanted our friends to spend money on was a new appliance or cookware!” exclaimed Anna.
Neither Anna nor Ashley had ever been to Amarante so everything was new, including the destination and new experiences. They forged new friendships during the build, which included the Habitat homeowner families.
“We had a chance to work on two locations during our build, and one family had been severely affected by a flood. The family would stop by every day to see the progress we’d made as they couldn’t wait to get back to their home,” says Anna. “It definitely stuck with me, as they were so appreciative and worked side by side with us and it made me perform my tasks faster to help them recover their home as soon as possible.”
Anna and Ashley remain in contact with many of the friends they made and plan to join other Habitat builds in the future in European locations, such as Romania and Poland, as well as outside of Europe, like Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Anna, who now works for KitchenAid brand in Whirlpool Corporation’s Belgium office, sees volunteering as a transformational event that can have an impact on others as well. “This volunteer experience helped me see life from a different perspective and be more cognitive of my personal life choices,” she said. “A small action such as a participation in a build will have an impact on the entire community. This is definitely a gratifying experience that helps bring more good to the world.”
Asked if she would encourage other Whirlpool employees to volunteer, Anna replied, “Absolutely! Habitat for Humanity is not only a way to give back to the world but also an excellent opportunity to make new connections and friendships for life. The shared experience of Habitat for Humanity brings people together and brings more kindness to the world.”