On January 8th, 21 people, 15 of them RC students, set out on the RC chapter of Habitat for Humanity’s annual winter break trip to New Orleans.
The trip proved to be a somewhat unusual one, as far as Habitat trips are concerned. Just days prior to the trip’s planned departure, it came to light that, thanks to a computer program glitch, Habitat’s New Orleans headquarters had lost track of RC’s plans to visit and build in the city. As a result, the RC group worked with a Habitat-run neighborhood cleanup project as well as Green Light New Orleans, a nonprofit organization that replaces traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient light bulbs for free to New Orleans residents.
After a day of driving and another day of sightseeing, the groups began their work week doing neighborhood cleanup, which included weed-whacking, gutter and sewer cleaning, and sidewalk clearing.
“Seeing all the people who appreciated the work we were doing, even if it was just doing the neighborhood cleanup, made everything worthwhile for me,” said Ryan Feather ’13, a six-trip Habitat veteran.
Beginning the second day of work, thanks to an unforeseen conflict with another group that caused them to leave New Orleans early, a large portion the RC group migrated to a building site, where a house was being built for a local hotel chef. A floor base had been completed, so the group worked for four days to put up walls and begin the roofing process.
“I thought it was cool to see how much progress we made on the house in just four days. When we got there it was just a base and a floor, but when we left it actually looked like a house with walls and a lot of a roof,” said Kimberly Johnson ’14.
A smaller portion of the group had the chance to work with Green Light New Orleans. Between two days, roughly 250 light bulbs were changed. For each household, a visit from Green Light saves them roughly $1000 every year.
“I loved doing the light bulbs because we got to meet so many different people. Everyone had a story and was open to share it and grateful that we were there for to help,” said Anna Lewis ’15. “It was a small change that these people could see right away, a change that gave them hope.”
But, as is the case with Habitat builds, the most important and meaningful parts of the experience comes with the community that is built. On the last day of building, a little boy from the neighborhood was dribbling a basketball but had no hoop. After a morning of valiant efforts at building him one of scraps of wood around the site, a more legitimate hoop appeared on the site after lunch.
“The basketball hoop for the little boy made the trip for me,” said Alyssa Bostrom ’13, another six-trip Habitat veteran.
After some negotiating with directions, when the building crew left the site that day, they left not just with a good start on a new house, but with the only actual basketball hoop for the neighborhood to use.
“Habitat is more than just building a house,” said Kate Larrivee ’15. “It’s about building relationships between people. It opens everyone’s eyes, and everyone carries something away from the experience.”
For anyone who wishes to experience the thrill of not just building a house, but building relationships and contributing to a community, RC’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity offers just that.