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1 Week, 12 Volunteers, And Thousands Of Galvanized Nails Later--We're Home

This article is about the humbling adventure the Habitat for Humanity team from Hiram College had embarked upon during their spring break!

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1 week, 12 volunteers, and hundreds of galvanized nails later--we're home.

Via facebook.com

When you hear the term ‘Spring Break’, what do you think of? For us college students, images of frosty Margarita’s and sandy tan lines pop into our academically burnt out minds. Dreams of sunsets dipping into crashing waves and phones set without an alarm clock are visions of heaven for our recovering midterm meltdowns. But before you assume each young adult is buying their plane ticket for next year already, let me tell you about a group of students who chose the ‘path less traveled’ and the difference it truly made.

For Hiram College, a private Liberal Arts establishment located in Northeast Ohio (roughly 45 minutes away from Cleveland), our time of short sweet freedom—otherwise known as Spring Break, had taken place March 6th-10th. While many of my friends began bikini shopping and getting their suitcases weighed, I was scanning local thrift shops for work pants and rolling my sleeping bag. As we said goodbye for the week, they boarded their flight for the Sunshine State and I squished my luggage into two vans and prepared for a six hour road trip to Bloomington, Indiana. My team and I left mentally exhausted and returned just as physically sore, but I will always choose a Midwestern city over Miami any day.

To start things off, I want to break down some of the false ideas that float around the company my team and I had volunteered with, titled ‘Habitat for Humanity’ (to learn a more in-depth explanation of the organization, click here). First and foremost, Habitat is a non-profit organization—let me say that again for the back row; Habitat for Humanity pays for their supplies and equipment through donations and sponsors! Secondly, the houses built are not given out for free to just anyone. There are certain requirements each family has to complete before settling into their home, like taking courses on home ownership and volunteering throughout the Habitat community. Furthermore, the houses dedicated do come with mortgages—but there is no interest rate attached. The houses cost an average of $90,000, and if a family bumps up their income enough to be able to afford a house outside of the Habitat community, they will move out and another family that is suitable for the house will make it into their home. Lastly, not only does Habitat construct homes for specific families and their needs but they also have shops that sell donations from furniture to silverware in local stores to the community—it is not limited to Habitat families, all are welcome at any ReStore around!

Now being that I was one of the five returners, I had thought I was prepared for the trip we had embarked on; one week spent sleeping on a church floor surrounded by fellow college students scattered on couches and hiding under ping pong tables, crankily waking up at 7a.m. to go help build frames and insulate walls with the Habitat for Humanity crew of Monroe County, and making a muddy beeline for the showers at the Indiana University Rec Center as soon as our 8 hour day was done. But what I hadn’t imagined was not only hearing fascinating stories from Week Day volunteers over subway sandwiches on our lunch breaks, learning how amazing our partnering Habitat team in Indiana strives so hard to make every house into a home for a family in need, but overall I did not expect the rush of tears I had cried when I saw the house I had been a part of building last year.

You never truly know what difference you have made until you see the end result. I had personally learned this on the first day back at Trail View Neighborhood when my team and I walked over to the area where a year ago we left a sturdy wooden floor with a couple of hollow walls standing, surrounded by a muddy work site. In its place was a beautiful house with bushes and shrubs where 2x4’s once laid and a cat resting on the windowsill I once had stood learning how to toenail a jack-king. I can’t describe the awe I had fallen into at that moment when I realized that I had been a part of something bigger than myself. I knew it wasn’t just me who shared the fulfilling emotions as Rachel Merriman (Hiram College, first year) shared her thoughts on what her favorite part of the trip was “When we got to see one of the families that was moving into one of the houses and realizing that this is somebody’s house and not just something we're building. Someone is going to be living there, it’s an incredibly strong feeling—to know that someone is going to be having their kids birthdays in this house is awesome, and to be a big part of that was incredible.” I spoke with other members of our team and it was a joy to hear that they all had taken home a similar feeling, our Habitat president Kaylee Savage (Hiram College, second year) had added “The most meaningful things are the relationships you create and the effect you have on the community.” We left our mark in one way or another, whether it was on a top plate where someone doodled silly nail sketches, or the end of a wall where our heights and signatures are recorded; either way, we were there. Throughout the stressful work hours, I would constantly tell my team how there is a parent praying for the house we are building for their family. Somewhere a child will go to bed one night, in the safety of the walls we raised and floors we nailed. I wanted my team to know how important our sacrifice of a short vacation meant to a lifetime of generations to come.

So before you go to buy your sunblock or an extra pair of shades, think about the possibilities that are waiting for you. Whether it is local or abroad, there is a person wishing for you to help them-in any given means. You will not only learn skills that will follow you throughout whatever career that calls, but someone's life will become all the more better because of your one small act of kindness. If I had taken anything away from this trip (other than a few loose nails and tough calluses), is that I am capable of learning new trades and helping complete strangers to have a life worth living, and so are you.

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