A Spring Break Spent in Service: Habitat’s Annual Trip

By Katy Shenk 
Elm Staff Writer

Washington College’s Habitat for Humanity Club won’t be spending spring break on an exotic vacation or binge-watching their favorite Netflix series. Instead, they’ll spend March 10-16 building houses in Sumter, S.C.

For the last 19 years, the club has visited and revisited several project sites. Last year, they traveled to Winston Salem, N.C.

Club Advisor and Assistant Director of Alumni Programming, Maria Hynson, will embark on her 11th spring break trip along with 28 students, most of whom are club members.

In 2008, seconds after she responded to an email about participating in the trip, she received a phone call asking her to be the advisor.

“I’d never been anyone’s advisor before. ‘It’ll be fine, it’ll be easy,’ they told me. And it was,” she said.

WC participates in Habitat for Humanity’s annual Collegiate Challenge with 10,000 other high school and college students. Their exact project for this spring will depend on the progress made by other schools in the weeks preceding WC’s trip.

Though most Habitat projects pertain to home revitalization, this spring groups will be constructing new homes in a Habitat-funded community neighborhood.

Students should expect to participate in any tasks relating to home construction and maintenance.

“We are involved in everything from digging the foundation to shingling roofs,” Hynson said.

Other activities include painting, hanging drywall, weeding, shed building, cleaning, and sorting nails. Previously, students also helped organize local Habitat ReStore offices that market used home goods at retail prices.

For students without any construction skills, the trip is a crash-course learning experience. Both Hynson and the veteran Habitat club members become teachers as well as workers/participants.

“Once [club members] have done it for a while, it’s expected that they help teach others. I become a ladder holder,” she said.

Hynson, speaking on behalf of the club, said they are looking forward to returning to Sumter for the second year, following their first visit in 2016.

“You can actually see the people living in the house you built and making it their home…it’s such a feeling of accomplishment. We had one family in Columbus, Ga. who invited our entire group to dinner every year,” she said.

Sophomore Caitlyn Creasy, fundraising chair of Habitat for Humanity, also spoke about the impact of her trip experiences. She participated in her first trip in the fall of 2016.

Creasy used power tools for the first time while helping with the rehabilitation of a deck. She said she helped Ray, a man bound by a wheelchair, and made lifelong friendships in the process of helping someone.

“I’ve learned so much about life, from homeowners and construction leaders, listening to their stories about how they got where they are and where they’re going. I’ve learned about leadership and what it takes to be a strong leader even when times are tough,” she said.

Student leadership is at the core of Habitat for Humanity’s service philosophy.

“My job is to give advice and to teach, but the students are in charge. The student leaders do an amazing job of running the program,” Hynson said.

There are still a few open slots for the upcoming spring break trip. The total trip cost is $250, but scholarships are available through several other organizations on campus. Interested students should contact Hynson at mhynson2@washcoll.edu or any Habitat for Humanity club officers.

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