35 Students, Seven Days, One House: Habitat for Humanity spends spring break in Georgia building for local family

By Michael Harman
Elm Staff Writer

Leadership and determination, along with all of the dedication in the world, are what you will find when speaking to a member of Washington College’s Habitat for Humanity Club. As the members arrive back from their annual Spring Break trip to Georgia, a tearful yet accomplished feeling consumes the bunch and everyone has great things to say about their experiences.

Habitat for Humanity may be defined as an “organization who works with families so that they may obtain safe and affordable housing,” said senior Claire Donald, treasurer of Habitat for Humanity, but it is also a life lesson that each student who participated would not trade for the world.

This year, 35 students took a 15 bus ride from WC, all the way to Albany, Ga. where they spent their Spring Break building a house for a 10 year-old girl and her father who has Multiple Sclerosis. “We woke up every day at six in the morning to work all day building for this family, but it was totally worth it,” said freshman Ekta Panigrahi. She was also surprised at the eagerness of her fellow members, “Anyone and everyone was willing to help you. It was a very supportive atmosphere.”

It is no surprise that in setting up this trip, Habitat and its advisors faced many setbacks along the way. Executive Secrety to the Provost and Dean and co-advisor Maria Hynson said that after being declined a place to stay in North Carolina as well as a house to build, the club had only six weeks to re-plan its whole trip.

“We had thought for a moment that we would not be going on a trip this year, but the officers really pulled through. I couldn’t be prouder,” she said. In just six weeks, the officers, senior Billie Ricketts, president, and senior Ellen Huffman, VP, found a place to stay by way of Habitat for Humanity International.

This is a great leap forward for Habitat for Humanity of WC. Hynson stated, “in 1999, Habitat was nothing more than a group of buddies who got money from the Service Council to go help families in Georgia. I did not become involved until 2007 and Habitat was not recognized as a club until 2010.”

Habitat also faces some big decisions in the future as the question of obtaining a local affiliate comes into play.

“The closest affiliate is in Baltimore, but we want to keep our club associated with the Eastern Shore,” said Hynson. She also expressed concern for the future since most of the officers are in their senior year.

“We are constantly looking for new people to join and finding leaders for the future,” she said.

With tears in her eyes, she described her experience with Habitat for Humanity and how “these students have taught me a lot, everything from music, to how to use my cell phone. But it is more than that. I am so grateful for the connection to these students and the connections they make between Habitat and their own lives.”

Forming lifetime bonds with people you may have never met before, Habitat allows students to broaden their horizons and amass a knowledge and dedication to something that they have never experienced before.

In the words of David Wharton, member of Habitat for Humanity and economics professor, “The group came quickly to live, work, and play as members of Habitat for Humanity and as a family” and that is exactly what Habitat is all about.

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