Commitment to Volunteer Work

Posted on September 1st, 2009 by

Corpus Christi group smiles in front of their hard work.

Corpus Christi group smiles in front of their hard work.

By Maren Balk ’09

Though many students use spring break as a time to relax and rejuvenate, nearly 100 students from Gustavus Adolphus College chose to embark on a journey to rebuild homes in the south.

Working through rain and mud for most of the week, the students overcame all challenges to build and “flip” homes.

The annual spring break service trips took place March 21-29, 2009 through the “Collegiate Challenge” volunteer work for Habitat International. This year, the volunteer sites included Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas, damaged by Hurricane Rita and a low-income sector of Pensacola, Fla.

Each group consisted of about 30 students who had the opportunity to build and improve living situations, interact with the homeowners, and observe the local cultures. Upon arrival, all groups began working on sites that were in various states of completion. Students spent eight hours a day on two different sites building more than 30 parts of the house. They built from the ground up: sheet rocking, mudding, painting, shingling, siding, installing trim work, building sheds, and hanging windows.

The Corpus Christi group worked at two different sites- siding one house and putting on the roof of another. At one of the locations, they met the homeowner, a young, single mother of four kids, three of whom were triplets that she had at the age of 18. The Pensacola group got the job done starting from an initial concrete block, then siding and shingling the roof. The Beaumont group met the homeowner the first day of the trip and learned about his unique story and his appreciation for their work.

The trip was not only a work experience but also a cultural one. “The trip was above and beyond anything we had expected and everyone left with a deeper understanding of how appreciative others’ were of our service. That day, the belief that when you do work for others, even better will come your way, rang very true,” said Abbe Paulhe, a junior psychology major and Corpus Christi group member.

At first glimpse, giving by building a small portion of a house for someone who has lost so much seems insignificant, but then being able to realize that it is the collective effort of the group that can rebuild an entire house and an entire life is truly amazing,” said Rob Amundson, a senior geography and psychology major and Beaumont group member.

All students were given opportunities to connect with local ELCA churches at their various locations and in the St. Peter community. Students raised funds in advance to lower the costs of the trip. In the southern communities, the groups stayed at a church or a local family center and were provided some meals from the local congregation. The Beaumont group stayed at St. Johns Lutheran Church and ate authentic Texan foods, like brisket and barbecue sausages.

A Reflection Day for the Gustavus student participants will be held Tuesday, April 21 in Linner Lounge. The entire Gustavus Habitat for Humanity chapter and local churches will be involved. The event will include reflection pieces from the students before and after the trips and various presentations. The current Gustavus Habitat Presidents, Molly Beernick and Emily Hoel, will speak. Currently, more than 60 percent of the students on campus participate in some sort of volunteer work.

Established in 1989, the purpose of Gustavus Habitat for Humanity as a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry is to work with local and outside chapters in an effort to build affordable housing for families in need. Volunteers from all backgrounds join to meet the needs through building, fund raising, advocacy, and educating on the issues of low-income living conditions. The organization is consistent with Gustavus’s values of community, service, faith, justice, and excellence.

The spring break work trip was also featured on Corpus Christi television station KRIS.


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