This Family Built A House From Scratch Using YouTube
Cara Brookins is the author of the memoir, Rise, How a House Built a Family, which sparked a viral news story in more than 65 countries and 1,000 news stories in total.
Her memoir tells the story of how she and her children escaped domestic violence. Traumatised and suffering from low self esteem, she realised that her family needed something big to bring them together and remind them of their unlocked potential. Practically, they also needed somewhere to live. So, they embarked upon building their future house from scratch – armed with nothing more than YouTube videos and sheer determination.
Now, she shares her story with us. Telling the tale of her transformation from a life of fear to one of strength and resilience.
What made you decide to build a house from scratch?
“I had left a domestic violence situation with my four kids and we were really emotionally destroyed. All the advice I found for improving my life talked about baby steps and small goals. I couldn’t see how just resolving to get dressed or make a pot of coffee in the morning was going to get me anywhere.”
“We needed a safe place to live, and I was determined to do something big. So building a house felt like the most natural solution in the world. My kids had very low self-esteems too. I worried they would never doing anything great after being pushed down for so long. They were 17, 15, 11, and 2. And especially with the older kids I felt a sense of urgency, that I had to do something very quickly to change the way we saw ourselves or they would leave home and forever feel small and uncertain.”
What was the hardest part of building the house?
“The foundation was the most difficult for a couple of reasons. First because it was right at the beginning when we were still really weak. Building the muscles we’d need to build the house by hauling huge concrete blocks around in cold January wind was a slow and painful process. There was no recovery time because each day we had to get up and go do it again.”
“Second, we realized at that early stage how emotionally difficult it was going to be to build a house. We were so far in over our heads. And it was going to take nine months of twenty hour days under intense focus to get it all done. Keeping a determined mind with a focus on my goals was a challenge, but we all stayed together and just kept pushing through each day.”
How did this project help you and your children to heal and grow closer as a family?
“We first learned how to talk to one another again after so many years of just surviving. Then we learned to laugh! First at things that were funny, and then at ourselves for making silly mistakes. It takes a lot of self-esteem to laugh at yourself so it felt good to not take ourselves so seriously anymore. And once we were building up out of the mud and framing walls, we felt an incredible sense of pride.”
What transformations did you see take place in your children?
“Watching as they took this enormous action to literally build themselves a better life was the most beautiful thing I’ll ever experience. To look way up over your head at something you built is incredibly empowering. In a physical and emotional sense, we were building something so much larger than ourselves.”
“By the end, we each came away with the sense that absolutely anything was possible. The kids became fearless in their life plans. Our dreams are ridiculous, crazy things and we don’t doubt for one second that we’ll achieve them.”
How did it feel to finally complete the house?
“It was more of a deep sigh than a celebration and it took us a while to just recover and settle in. We all want to believe that accomplishing something this big fixes everything, but of course life always provides another challenge. We experienced a family tragedy on the day we moved in and it took us a while to get through that, but we’d gained so much strength and grown so close that we were equipped to handle that and everything that life threw our way.”
What message would you like to give to other women?
“Forget everything you’ve been told about taking baby steps. If you’re not happy with where you’re at today, take an enormous leap toward an impossible goal. For me that was building a house and for you it might be something completely different. Find your big thing and do it. Accomplishing something big will forever change your perception of yourself. The message isn’t that I did this big thing, it’s that if someone as weak and unlikely as me can do this, then anyone can.”
Look out for the full interview in our April/May issue.
Today Cara Brookins has an enormous online following where she encourages others to take a leap toward bigger goals. On her weekly podcast through Macmillan, Raise My Roof with Cara Brookins, she interviews activists and experts about their own stories of triumph. She is in demand as a speaker and is adding to her fiction list with seven novels in print. We cannot wait to see where her story takes her next.