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Student volunteers will build homes for Habitat for Humanity
While many students will be visiting warmer climates over Spring Break, Jen Theiller, a junior illustration major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, will be building a home. Theiller and nearly 60 other SU student volunteers will travel to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to build and restore homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built and repaired more than 100,000 homes since the organization’s inception in 1976. Donations and the labor provided by volunteers have allowed the organization to build homes and provide no-interest mortgages for thousands of needy families.
From March 12 to 16, the students, formed into 20-member building crews, will work with volunteers from Americorps to build homes from “a slab of cement up,” says Laura Sneeringer, a senior biology and policy studies major in The College of Arts and Sciences. The students will work four eight-hour days and will have a one-day break from construction duty for rest and relaxation.
Sneeringer and Theiller have both traveled to Georgia with the organization in the past. They are serving as the coordinators for this year’s trip, organizing the 60 volunteers and coordinating fundraisers to obtain the $15,000 needed to fund the three trips. Student volunteers participating in builds contribute $150 each towards their trip, which pays for transportation, housing and food. Once in the community where the build will take place, the students will stay in condominiums, churches or residents’ homes.
This year’s Spring Break trip to Columbus, Ga., is expected to be fruitful. SU volunteers will join students from 10 other colleges in what is being called a “blitz build.” The volunteers will construct seven to 10 homes during their one-week stay.
While building in Georgia two years ago, student volunteers worked side-by-side with the woman whose home they were building. Sneeringer recalls that the woman’s 8-year-old child had seen two killings in the streets of their old neighborhood. “The woman felt the home was a gift from God,” says Sneeringer. “She was incredibly thankful for it, and that made me feel good about myself.”
Students who participated in the 1999 trip to Georgia visited the Habitat for Humanity international headquarters in Americus. Theiller recalls the center as a “museum portraying what an excellent organization Habitat really is. Pictures from all over the world illustrated the change of poor neighborhoods into nice ones.”
Sneeringer and Theiller both believe the Spring Break build trips are worthwhile experiences. “You feel an empowering sense of doing something good, “Theiller says. Both women reflect pleasantly on the friendships that they formed with fellow SU student volunteers.
Though the deadline for applications for the Spring Break builds has passed, other opportunities are available to become involved with the Habitat organization. The SU chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which has nearly 300 volunteers, hosts builds of and rehabilitation to homes every Saturday in the local community. Also, tax deductible donations may be made at any time. To learn more about the organization, visit the SU chapter’s Web site at http://students.syr.edu/habitat.