Habitat Takes on Houston

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that is created to serve those who are in need. Habitat seeks to help families who wish to build and improve the structure that they call a home since Habitat believes that affordable housing plays a major role in creating strong and stable communities. It is of great importance to ensure that there is a way to offer homes to people who need it most and are willing to work hard to earn it. To qualify for a home built by Habitat, the homeowner must put in “sweat equity” to earn the home being built for them. The homeowner could earn hours by working on their future home, cleaning up a build site, and working in a Habitat ReStore. Habitat for Humanity also helps to prevent damage to the environment since they will work in homes that are planned to be redone. Rather than completely demolishing a home where the debris is then dumped into a landfill, volunteers instead go into the home to remove pieces from the home to be sold in the ReStore at a more affordable price.

Marist College’s Habitat for Humanity participates in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, where students are offered alternative school break opportunities to volunteer throughout the country. This year, 24 Marist students were chosen to go on this trip to Houston, Texas to spend a week making a difference. While being there to help out with such an incredible organization, the Marist students became quickly immersed into the culture of the Southwest and got a chance to see what it was like to live in Texas. Most meals consisted of Tex-Mex and barbecue, Houston’s most popular cuisines.

After adjusting to living in an apartment offered by a church alongside 23 other students and three chaperones, we then began our service work. Monday morning, we worked on a beautiful home with property of 9,000 square footage and was worth over 3 million dollars. The owners of the home recently purchased it from another family and wanted to build their dream home. Instead of bulldozing the huge structure and ridding its pieces to a landfill, the homeowners instead wanted Habitat for Humanity volunteers to come in and salvage pieces of the home so that they could then be purchased, used, and appreciated by many other people who wish to fix up their own homes at cost-friendly prices.

We were divided into groups, each to accomplish certain tasks. One group focused on salvaging the decorative pieces of wood that bordered the floors, ceilings, doors, and windows, while another group worked on retrieving the electrical pieces from the home. Tuesday morning, we worked on the same home again, but this time one group was de-nailing the pieces of wood retrieved the day before and filing off the excess debris from them so that they would be ready to be sold in the ReStore, and the other group worked outside to do yard work and take down a swing set. It was awesome to collectively break down such a big home in a way that so many people could now benefit from without harming the environment.

Wednesday morning was a change of scenery, being that we got the chance to work outdoors on a home that was built entirely by Habitat volunteers for a homeowner who had worked very hard to earn this home. The students were doing the finishing touches to the home which involved only outdoor work such as laying sod, planting a garden and small tree, and building a wooden fence. After we completed our work for the day, we had the chance to see a housewarming ceremony, which is where the home was given to the homeowner by the men and women of Habitat. The home that we spent the day working on was being given to Joanna, a mother and grandmother who plans on hosting holidays and having her grandchildren spend time with her in her new and beautiful home. It was touching to see how happy she and her family were to have this home brought into their lives where they can now create so many special memories that will be held close to their hearts. On Thursday, our last day of working, we did the same tasks as the day before, this time working on the neighboring home. Being such a large group, we effectively completed every task we needed to accomplish in time. It was amazing to see how great of a change we made from when we first started our work to when we finished up our time there in Houston. We made a great impact on the lives of the people that will cherish these homes, and we helped to bring more joy into the world.

This trip affected the lives of every student in attendance being that this experience was eye opening and life changing. While being a full-time college student, it is easy to become completely submerged in the culture of the school campus for months on end, which makes it difficult to take notice of the lives of those who are struggling most. We often take for granted the things we possess, such as a safe and secure shelter over our heads, which is something that is not readily available to all people everywhere. The board of the Habitat for Humanity Club here on campus helped to create an unforgettable experience for the students who ventured on this journey, along with the help of those that work for the school who allowed for this trip to become a reality. We are also thankful for the volunteers at the sites who taught us how to complete our tasks and helped us during the process, and for the men and women who provided us delicious meals for our lunch breaks. Habitat for Humanity has inspired us to use our time and ability to help those in need. Our service work was truly humbling and a very rewarding experience that we will never forget.

Julia Kisilinsky

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