Denison students ventured to Durham, N.C. for one week over winter break to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. The eager group, comprised of 17 women, did not have a vast knowledge of construction work, but quickly learned on the job. Even though nails were flying and people were nearly cutting their hands off at the beginning, homes were built and bonds were made.
“You didn’t need to have construction experience to go on the trip,” said president of the Denison Habitat for Humanity chapter Aubrey Vasquez ‘17, “We wanted people that liked working with their hands and helping other people who don’t have the same basic things we do, like a home. We just wanted people that we could count on.”
The purpose of Habitat for Humanity is to provide those in need with affordable housing. The houses usually have a mortgage around $500 a month, which is about the price of a small apartment. Volunteers work alongside the homeowners to help build a secure, stable house that they can safely raise their family.
Denison’s volunteers, along with students from Duke and other local volunteers in the Durham area laid down floors, put up walls, fences and landscaped. The hardest part of the work for MJ Gewalt ‘17 was working on the foundation.
“The first pieces of wood you put up on a house is difficult because you have to get it right,” said Gewalt, “We had to listen to step by step direction to make sure everything is correct.”
Working with the homeowner’s children struck Sarah Bradley ’17 the most in her work for the organization. “A lot of these families have children who just need a safe environment to grow up in without having to worry about being in a dangerous area,” she said.
Stories like these do not just happen in the far off reaches of the United States. The Habitat for Humanity club at Denison works in Newark and Columbus throughout the year.
“In the Ohio builds we see more than the small bubble of Granville,” Vasquez said. “We get to see the little areas of Ohio that us Denison students never normally see.”
The group works on builds at least one Saturday a month, but is looking to increase their frequency with more volunteers.
According to Bradley, volunteers need to have a realistic vision of what they are out there to do. “Sometimes it can be difficult in the sense that a lot of the jobs and processes that go into building a house are very tedious and it can be easy to lose sight of the end product; it can feel as if you aren’t making much of a difference,” she said.
“Pulling nails out of an old board can seem really useless and unhelpful in the moment, but if there’s one thing that volunteering with Habitat has taught me, it’s that every job no matter how small plays an integral role in providing an amazing home for families in need.”
Habitat for Humanity has served nearly 1.8 million people through their work around the world in 2015, and has served 6.8 million people since it’s conception in 1976.