Dispatches from a Habitat for Humanity build in North Carolina

March, 2012

Students offer final reflections on life-changing Alternative Break Trip

Habitat experience went well beyond building homes
By Chelsea LaManna, graduate student

I embarked on the elusive Habitat for Humanity trip to Chatham, N.C. expecting to work on a house, bond with some of the other members of the Quinnipiac community, and see a bit of North Carolina.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that I wouldn’t begin working on the house until day four – and I was perfectly fine with that! I was able to participate in the true Habitat for Humanity experience, which involves far more than just building a house. The mélange of activities I performed included building picnic tables for a park in one of the communities, helping out at the Home Store, clearing trails to a pond in another community and finally working on the house.

I believe I got to see the best of everything Habitat had to offer, and this experience was amplified by the dedication of the Habitat staff and long-term volunteers in Chatham County.

What is evident from the pictures of the week is that Quinnipiac students did a ton of volunteer work. But what you can’t see is that we learned a lot. We didn’t just build, clean and paint things, we also left with valuable knowledge that wouldn’t have been possible without the devotion of those who were leading us.

We began each day with a theme, some sort of activity such as a song and a prompt that encouraged each of us to speak.

We ended each day in the same manner – a unified group, discussing our experiences of the day, encouraging us to process everything we did.

I believe that if it weren’t for Chatham Habitat being as wonderful as they were that my experiences would have been vastly different.

It is for this reason that I am more than willing and eager to nominate Chatham Habitat for the Collegiate Challenge Host Affiliate MVP Award and will be encouraging everyone else on the trip to do so as well, as I know that they feel as passionately as I do. Thank you Chatham Habitat!

Habitat build helped us to learn more about each other – hundreds of miles from campus
Carla Breccia ‘13

The opportunity to go on one of Quinnipiac’s Alternative Break Trips was something I was blessed to have.

I have learned so much about myself and my fellow peers as well as Chatham Habitat for Humanity.

Throughout the trip, we were given the opportunity to explore aspects of Habitat outside of the volunteer building.

Personally, I was able to help out at the Home Store, which is a main source of income for Habitat for Humanity. I had previously not known about this “re-store” and was so happy to see it because it made me appreciate how much Habitat truly does for those who they provide shelter to, as well as the surrounding communities. One item that stuck out to me at the home store was a refrigerator for $69!

My favorite aspect of the trip was truly getting to know my Quinnipiac peers.

I often lose myself in my school work and forget that a large part of the college experience is making new friends. This trip put me in a situation where I was placed with 18 other students and 1 trip leader who had a common purpose, but who I knew nothing about.

Each and every person who went on this trip is now near and dear to my heart; they understand something about me which most others don’t. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and have become truly inspired to continue my work with Habitat for Humanity!

Habitat trip confirms life’s plan
Tory Saba ‘12

My trip to North Carolina changed me in more ways than one.

Up until that week, I had been having lots of thoughts about my future after Quinnipiac, and I had been extremely nervous about what my future holds for me.

This trip completely confirmed for me what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

I will forever be involved with Habitat for Humanity. After the trip, I made the decision to apply for an Americorp position with Habitat for Humanity.

It is a scary decision to make, and an intimidating application process; however, I have more confidence than ever before to apply for Americorps. I am no longer nervous for my future, but excited!

Habitat trip inspires student
Jennifer Bellucci ‘14

If I could describe the Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break Trip to North Carolina in one word, I would have to say “inspiring.”

The long-term volunteers we encountered on this trip were truly inspiring in the way they selflessly and tirelessly gave their time to build these houses for deserving and needing families.

Alongside these volunteers, I was also inspired by my fellow Quinnipiac students who selflessly gave up their spring break to build houses and work with Habitat.

While the work was hard, it was inspiring to see how the students accepted the challenge that comes with construction to help make a difference in other people’s lives.

Trip offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Dan Callahan ‘12

There are no words that can adequately explain how great my experience with Habitat for Humanity has been.

The Alternative Spring Break Trip to North Carolina was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and coming from someone that was hesitant to go and didn’t buy the idea of a life-changing experience, that’s saying something.

Each time I see one of the other 19 people that I shared this experience with, we’ll be brought back to the week in March that changed our lives forever.

Trip gives student hope for the future
Emily Zwart ‘13

Overall, I was completely inspired by this trip.

We experienced so much more than just construction and volunteer work, but we met people with extraordinary stories whose lives were drastically different from ours, yet still the same.

I learned that your future is something to have hope in, rather than dread and that you will find amazing people no matter where you go.

Not only did the Quinnipiac students step up to the plate, but the long-term volunteers and leaders of the Pittsboro Affiliate really understood what is important in life.

Looking past what you see on the surface of places, people and experiences will lead to learning more about yourself, and the world around you than you would if you lived forever with a closed mind.

March 16, 2012

Reflecting on a life-changing spring break experience

By Amelia Houghton ‘14

Nineteen students spent their spring break building houses and clearing brush with Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina.

I can’t adequately describe the emotions that came with last night’s reflection or the fact that this is our last day working with Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina.

Last night, we did a lot of bonding and opening up to each other and I think it really made us closer. We were all extremely emotional and motivated for the last day on the site.

Today, I was able to work on the house. I think it has been extremely rewarding to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of long-term volunteers, students from other schools and my peers from Quinnipiac.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to work on the roof students from both Quinnipiac the University of New Hampshire.

Hammering was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated, but it got easier as I worked.

I was also able to do a lot of measuring and cutting which was an important job that required me to have confidence in what I was doing. In the afternoon, we participated in the Habitat Olympics in hammering and removing nails, wrapping extension cords, crawling and wheel-barreling, math, measuring and trivia. Our team came in second place but I definitely learned that I am a very good crawler and all of the students who played had a great time. I’m really glad we were able to participate.

Another amazing experience we had yesterday was getting to meet Carly, who we built a house for. She was so grateful, spirited and eager to talk with us. She even took a picture of those of us who had worked on the house to hang up on the wall when it is finished.

When you do work for Habitat, you don’t always meet the family or person who is going to own the house and it was an amazing opportunity to meet her and hear her story and how much the home meant to her and her daughter. I think it was amazing to think that what we gave in just one week is something which is a dream for her and her daughter.

At the end of the day, we went through the circle of students and volunteers, each saying what we learned, how they were changed over the trip or what they are thankful for. I think this was an amazing thing for everyone to hear.

This has truly been a life-changing experience for me which has exceeded any expectations I had of the trip.

While I came on this trip to take a bigger step in the service I do for others, I found that what I gained from the experience was so much more than that.

I have learned new skills and met so many amazing people.

I had the opportunity to get to know and talk with students from other schools who shared common interests with me and were equally as interested in hearing my story.

I had the opportunity to speak with some of the most inspiring and incredible volunteers from Habitat for Humanity and to experience a whole different culture than that in the Northeast.

This whole trip was a complete reality check from the “college bubble” and all my studying. This trip forced me to focus on having patience and to slow my pace to enjoy the things around me.

This trip also taught me about the work and patience it takes to get to know a person, that you actually have to listen to their story and invest in them and I have gained 19 new, amazing friends.

Although we are all different, we came for a common purpose and were supportive and motivating of each other.

This trip has reaffirmed that the small things in life make the biggest difference. What we accomplished in one week changed lives and I think that if we can progress like that as a generation, we can accomplish so much more.

I am so proud to be part of this group and wouldn’t have changed this experience at all.

There is no place or group I would have rather been with this spring break.

March 15, 2012

Students gain new experiences, insights

By Amelia Houghton ‘14

Several students worked with Chatham County Habitat for Humanity to clear a path through a wooded area in a neighborhood where there are three Habitat homes. Students cleared brush and removed stumps so the neighbors can walk from their homes to the nearby river. Other students visited neighborhoods to educate the community about Habitat’s mission and services available. (Photo by Amelia Houghton '12.)

I have learned new things and had exciting new experiences every day I have been here, which makes me sad that tomorrow is our last day here. This has been such an amazing trip and I am not prepared to end this incredible experience.

Today we split into three groups. My group went to Bear Creek to a previous Habitat for Humanity build location. We fixed up the house, cleared a trail to the creek and did some landscaping.

The first part of my day was spent with Laura and Carla from Quinnipiac and Joey from the University of New Hampshire, with whom I worked with on the first day at the site.

I finally got to pick up a hammer and do some work with tools, which was really exciting! The work was fun and our site leaders were patient and kind.

When we were finished working on the house, we helped to clear a trail to the creek using pitch forks, rakes and saws. Our final job of the day was helping move gravel from the street that was in the grass.

The best parts of the work day were definitely using the tools, working with new volunteers and experiencing a third aspect of Habitat. I am really thankful for all the opportunities I have had and excited to go back to the site tomorrow for construction.

We ended our day at the home of one of the volunteers.

He encouraged us to go rock-climbing, zip-lining, tightrope-walking and kayaking. I am extremely grateful that he invited us to come. We all had such a great time.

Seeing the way people live outside of the Northeast has been a truly eye-opening experience. Our group is extremely fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to meet the people we have and have done the things we have.

March 14, 2012

Students make a difference, one bookcase at a time

By Amelia Houghton ‘14

Students worked in the Habitat Home Stores painting shelves and organizing and cleaning the backroom on March 14. Revenue from the Chatham Habitat Home Stores totals $250,000 each year, enough to build three homes. (Photo by Lila Carney, assistant director of student media.)

Today was an extremely fun and exciting day because I got to see a lot more than just the work site and see more aspects of Habitat for Humanity.

Today, eleven other Quinnipiac students and I went to the Habitat home resale store, which runs essentially like a Goodwill or the Salvation Army store.

At the store, we helped sort, price and organize the donations people make. The items will then be resold at an affordable price.
We were able to walk around the stores and see how they function.

It was interesting to see everything at the Habitat Home Store because it is a main source of income for the Chatham chapter of Habitat for Humanity. We painted bookcases and got to meet and speak with the regular volunteers, which was a great opportunity.

The best parts of the day involved getting to know the volunteers, each other and the two girls working with our group from the University of New Hampshire.

It was an incredible experience to work in the home store because many of us thought we were only going to get to see one aspect of Habitat: building.

I think the best part of my day today was how nice all the volunteers were. They were all genuinely interested in us and our school and thankful that we came.

March 13, 2012

Students start working, get to know colleagues from other schools

By Amelia Houghton ‘14

Nineteen undergraduate and graduate students are spending their spring break building two houses and rehabilitating a third home for the Chatham County, N.C. Habitat for Humanity. They will be working through Friday before returning to our Mount Carmel Campus on Saturday evening. Here, students work on shelves for Habitat for Humanity. (Photo by Amelia Houghton '14.)

Today was an exciting day for Team Chatham as it was our first day on the worksite.

We had our first breakfast at Camp Royall this morning and then set out for the main worksite. We started with some nametags, introductions and orientation that focused primarily on safety on the worksite.

The site has three houses that are under construction, one which is being framed, one which is almost finished and another that is being renovated by Habitat for Humanity for a new. Also on the site is a “community house” where habitat offers tutoring for local children, holds required classes for future habitat homeowners and is the headquarters of the homeowners’ association.

To get started, we were split into groups for different tasks, one small group of four to work on some tasks, a group of nine to build picnic tables and the rest to work on the house in the framing stage. The groups consisted of students from different universities, which offered opportunities to meet people outside of Quinnipiac.

I was working with the small group of four, with three people from the University of New Hampshire.

I definitely took this as a challenge to get out of my comfort zone and to try and be very productive even away from the support of my team.

We worked on making a “pad,” or basically a flat area on inclined land to put in a heating unit next to the house. This job consisted of shoveling, wheel-barreling, raking and flattening the dirt into the area we wanted from the pile. This task was much more difficult than you would think because the dirt was the consistency of clay or mud and would stick and was very heavy.

We  moved to the community house for our next task. There, we worked to dry and stain a ramp and porch. Although the job was not quite as exciting as the power tools that some of the other groups were using, the students from UNH and I were able to talk about our schools and exchange stories, which was pretty interesting. Some locals also thanked us for what we were doing.

I think what was rewarding about working on the community house was that it is not just for a single family, but rather for the community.

One of the staff members showed us the inside of the community house, which was filled with pictures from the local children and also the activities which they had been working on in their classes. It was nice to see what actually goes on in the house we were working so hard on and to find out who it will benefit from our efforts. Overall, I was not impressed by the worksite today and hope to get to do some of the construction tomorrow and get my hands on some of those power tools.

Today was also fun because of some of the activities that we did after leaving the site as a group. It was definitely interesting to talk to other groups because it showed many of us how organized our program is as compared to the other teams’.

Today we reflected about persistence and as a team with a focus on our personal and team strengths and weaknesses. The reflection included a very fun scavenger hunt that required every team to work together at the end to solve the puzzle emphasizing that although there may be some friendly competition, our team must work together to be successful. Outside of our reflection group, we tried to do a lot of bonding through activities like basketball, knockout and other games before bed.

I was really glad to see that our group is continuing to move forward and get closer together today.

March 12, 2012

Quinnipiac team ready to get to work

By Lila Carney
Assistant Director of Student Media

Eighteen undergraduate students prepare for a week of house-building with adviser Lila Carney and graduate assistant Chelsea LaManna for Habitat for Humanity in Chatham County, N.C.

We’re here and ready to work! But the build doesn’t actually start until tomorrow so today we channeled all our energy toward getting settled in our new digs at Camp Royall and getting acquainted with Pittsboro, N.C.

We also had the opportunity to meet with David Snyder, resource development manager with Chatham County Habitat for Humanity. He talked to our students about just how important their work will be here over the next few days. He told the students that if all they do this week is build a home and have some fun, that’s great. But, he said he hopes all the students realize the larger impact of their work.

Snyder told us that once someone is able to buy a home through Habitat, it opens the door to lots of other opportunities that will make the homeowners’ lives and the lives of their families exponentially better.

Not only will the families have a home, but having a mortgage allows them to establish credit. Once they have credit, they’re able to get loans for other important things like cars and even college. That means they’ll be able to get to and from work reliably, they’ll be able to further their education and eventually get better paying jobs.

The neighborhood we’ll be working in used to be known as the Pittsboro Projects. Over the last few years, Chatham Habitat for Humanity has transformed that neighborhood and created a better place for everyone to live. We will be continuing the work in this neighborhood.

We’re so excited and can’t wait to get started!

March 12, 2012

Student grasps value of her work before she hammers her first nail

By Amelia Houghton ‘14

Eighteen students prepare for a week of house-building with Habitat for Humanity in Chatham County, North Carolina. (Photo by Lila Carney, assistant director of student media.)

Today was a great day, and somehow, even though yesterday’s ride was three times longer, today felt like a much longer day. We did so much and, most importantly, finally arrived in North Carolina!

We all cheered as we pulled into Camp Royall, our home away from home for the next week. I think many of us were pleasantly surprised by how nice the camp is. Among the amenities are soccer fields, Frisbee golf, a pond with boats, two dining halls and a playground.

We are sharing the camp with Providence College and the University of New Hampshire.

We had the opportunity to speak with some of the students from UNH and found them to be very friendly. I think many of us hope to spend some time meeting people from the other schools during our stay here.

Another great thing we were able to experience today was an orientation with a representative from the Chatham Habitat, David Snyder, when we first arrived.

He was able to tell us about the area, the campsite, and the Habitat chapter.

Some of the most valuable information he gave us included who we build and work for and also the value of our volunteer work. He told us that although Habitat for Humanity is commonly misconceived as a volunteer program that gives away houses to families for free, the families who receive the house must meet three main requirements:

1)      They must be in need of a home

2)      They must volunteer “sweat equity” or volunteer a required amount of hours through the organization

3)      They must have the ability to pay a 0 percent mortgage.

The other thing I took away from the conversation was that the collegiate challenge, the program through Habitat that brings college students to work with the organization, has made one of the biggest impacts on the success of the local chapter.

Snyder made us feel welcome in our new home and made us feel like what we are doing is something that really helps the greater Habitat for Humanity program.

Other highlights of the day included going to a fantastic BBQ restaurant where we tried hush puppies and assorted fried foods, exploring the University of North Carolina and shopping for groceries as a group.

These activities were all a lot of fun and allowed us to bond and become better organized.

Tonight’s reflection was really exciting. In the discussion, there was a lot of focus on getting to know each other better and also getting to know each other’s backgrounds. It was meaningful to discuss our pasts and then to discuss how the recipients of these houses are not just receiving simply shelter, but a home in which to have similar experiences and memories to those we have. I think that the point was that we are not building merely homes, but memories.

The most valuable thing that happened to me today, even better than the hush puppies and fried okra, was a discussion I had in the grocery store checkout line with someone from the area.

Imagine being at a relatively small grocery store on a Monday night when you see nearly 20 college students with more than a half dozen carts full of food pull up to the register.

I think that what you are imagining in your head is exactly what the lady in front of me was thinking: What on earth is going on? I explained to her that we are a group of college students from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut who came down to volunteer over spring break with Habitat for Humanity.

Her reaction was something I don’t think I can ever quite explain exactly.

As she put her hand on my shoulder, she said: “What you guys are doing here is incredible! People give young people a bad reputation but we we’re all young once and there are a lot of you who are doing some really great and impressive things. I really want you to tell your group that what you are doing is incredible and has a huge impact on our community.”

I don’t think anything on this trip will be close to as satisfying as hearing this woman thank us just for coming. We didn’t build her a house, she hadn’t worked with us and she had only just met me, but I think what she said had more impact on me than most things anyone has ever told me.

Just coming down to help meant so much to her because we came down to help her community. To know that what we are doing makes such a difference, is not something that always come with service, you never know how much of an affect you efforts will make, but hearing it from this total stranger will be something I will never forget.

March 12, 2012

Students develop a better appreciation of the work they are about to start

By Dan Callahan ’12

Eighteen students prepare for a week of house-building with Habitat for Humanity in Chatham County, North Carolina. (Photo by Dan Callahan '12.)

After a night in Virginia, we crossed over the North Carolina border and arrived safely in Pittsboro at Camp Royall, our home for the week. We were greeted by David Snyder, the resource development manager for the Chatham County Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

He spoke with us about Camp Royall, the surrounding area and the work we will be doing with Habitat for Humanity. The area is certainly small town America — although we are only a short drive from cities like Durham and Chapel Hill.

We ventured into Chapel Hill, did some shopping, some eating and visited the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is the kind of college campus you see in the movies.

I think most people think Habitat for Humanity is all about building homes for people.

However, first, potential homeowners are required to contribute 350 hours of work on their houses and others (called “sweat equity,”) and the ability to commit to paying off a 0 percent interest mortgage.

Habitat for Humanity improves lives in so many more ways. With a house comes a much more stable life, meaning no jumping from school to school. Also, owning a home means a person can establish credit. This affiliate was established in 1989 and has grown tremendously since.

Proof of the the many benefits of Habitat beyond a roof overhead, is the fact that many of the first recipients are the first in their family to attend college.

March 12, 2012

Students head south for a Habitat build

By Amelia Houghton ‘14

Eighteen students are spending Spring Break building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Chatham County, N.C. (Photo by Amelia Houghton '14.)

Yesterday 20 of us left Quinnipiac at 7 a.m. in two white 15-person passenger vans to work with Habitat for Humanity in Chatham County, North Carolina.

The drive took about nine hours to complete – and was surprisingly faster than I expected.

We watched license plates, asked each other icebreaker questions, listened to CDs we made for the and, of course, did quite a bit of napping along the way. We traveled through New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The gradual increase in temperature was a great welcome.

We stayed at a Best Western in Richmond, Va., which led itself to a learning experience in itself.

Let me explain: On the trip, we have groups which lead our nightly reflections that are intended to help us to get to know each other better, share our experience and grow as leaders.

Yesterday’s leaders told us that the hotel was booked for the wrong night and that there was nowhere in the area for us to stay. We discussed ideas of what to do and, as a group, concluded we would get dinner and then continue south and call other hotels along the way until we found one where we could stay.

We only found out later that it was all a learning exercise intended to bring us together to collectively solve the problem. We were able to share common fears and develop common solutions.

We were then able to go to bed early after a long day of traveling.

This morning, we packed the van at 7 before sharing an exceptional continental breakfast at the hotel. We got a nice taste of the South with biscuits and gravy for breakfast – well some of us did. I stuck to a waffle – before starting out on a three-hour trip to Pittsburo, N.C.

I am looking forward to everyone getting a lot closer. I think we are all starting to get to know each other and I am sure it’s only going to get better from here. I guess that’s what a nine-hour car ride will do for a group of people.

Categories: Student Affairs

1 reply »

  1. The QU students in Battle Creek MI are having an equallly satisfying Habitat build experience. They finished a wheel chair ramp today. The woman who needs it was so grateful to our students. For students who choose to spend their break participating in a Habitat for Humanity build it’s a fantastic experience. They learn so much about themselves and how good it feels to give back to others. Giving back is definitely becoming the “Bobcat “way. Can’t wait until the Big Event on April 14th.

    Joanne Robertson
    Assoc. Director, Undergraduate Admissions

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