April 9, 2014
By Amanda Ramirez
An old proverb, “Home is where the heart is” associates home with comfort, warmth and love.
Unfortunately, this is not true for many Americans. According to the UW-Whitewater Habitat for Humanity website, the number of families in poverty is growing, the number of affordable rental units is shrinking, and most families who qualify for government housing assistance are not receiving any aid.
They are forced to pay more than half their income for housing, endure overcrowded conditions and/or live in houses with severe physical deficiencies.
On March 22, UW-Whitewater’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity departed for Albany, Ga., to build two homes for families in need over Spring Break.
“You may not think it sounds very fun to go somewhere to do construction for an entire week, but the feeling afterward is so rewarding,” freshman Morgan Campbell said about his experience as a participant in this year’s spring expedition.
Habitat for Humanity (HFH) is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian-based housing ministry. Its goal is to eliminate poverty, housing and homelessness from the world.
HFH invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. The program has built more than 200,000 homes around the world, providing more than 1,000,000 people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent and affordable shelter.
“It builds leadership, and it builds community,” freshman Aleda Johnson said about the importance of HFH.
Every year during Spring Break, the UW-Whitewater HFH chapter travels to an alternative location to work with local affiliates to aid in building houses for families in need. Typically, the trips are one week including travel time, a workweek and a ‘free day’ to enjoy local attractions.
“It’s so fun to meet so many new people and also know that you are helping someone in need while you’re still having fun,” said Jenna Peterson, coordinator of the 2014 spring trip.
Peterson, participated in the HFH spring break trip her sophomore and junior year. She said she felt inspired to take a leadership position this year.
Peterson said it is a productive and rewarding alternative to the traditional college Spring Break.
Sophomore Danielle Schabo said she was apprehensive because of her lack of experience with construction. However, she still wanted to help.
“I just wanted to make a difference somewhere,” Schabo said.
In four days, HFH volunteers constructed two homes for local families in need. Each workday they woke up at 6 a.m. for breakfast and arrived at the worksite by 8 a.m. to begin construction.
Originally, volunteers were placed in small groups of about six people and then assigned a specific task for that day. However, volunteers were not confined to the same group throughout the entire process.
Campbell said he was originally assigned siding, but he wanted to try roofing. Coordinators encouraged participants to try a variety of skills to see what felt most comfortable or enjoyable.
Volunteers helped one another master different skills if they had previous experience and provided tips to fellow group members to ensure they felt comfortable with their assignment.
Aside from gaining construction experience and volunteering for a meaningful cause, HFH participants were able to witness the impact of their work by seeing the reactions of locals.
“Everyone was so happy that these college students were giving up their time to come and help someone else,” Johnson said. “It was a really great experience.”
Each participant noted the extreme gratitude expressed by the locals throughout the experience.
“There was no shortness of gratitude from anyone there,” Campbell said. “They were all super grateful we were there, and they made us know that fact.”
By the end of the trip, Peterson said it is not only the locals that are grateful for the experience, but also the participants.
“We’ve really made an impact on their lives, like they’ve made an impact on our lives,” Peterson said.
Next fall, UW-Whitewater’s Habitat for Humanity plans to build a home in Whitewater.
On April 12 and 26, UW-Whitewater Habitat for Humanity will host Hire-A-Habitater to help local homes and businesses with spring indoor or outdoor projects.
Between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., two to four Habitaters will arrive to complete assignments at any location within 30 minutes of Whitewater.
Donations for services will go to building affordable housing in Walworth County.
For more information, or to participate, contact UW-Whitewater’s Campus Ministry at either 262-473-5555 or email [email protected]