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Students after digging a trench for drainage on the Habitat for Humanity site in Macon, Georgia

Dominican College of Blauvelt
Students volunteer with Habitat during spring break

By Joan Smith, OP

Students from Dominican College of Blauvelt in New York partnered with Habitat for Humanity at three different sites in March for an alternative spring break. Each site highlighted the housing crisis existing in the United States.

Twelve students and two staff members traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, and Macon, Georgia, to explore the economic downturn, the cycle of poverty and the factors that suppress this subset of the population, particularly in cities.

At the same time, 10 students and two staff members were in Asbury Park, New Jersey, to aid in the rebuilding and revitalization efforts there in response to Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the Northeast coastline in October 2012. They also explored the impact of a widespread disaster such as this on a community.

Painting trim for a home in Baltimore

Each group was led by two student leaders and accompanied by two faculty/staff participants. They worked five eight-hour days with Habitat for Humanity at each site, and were hosted by churches in their respective cities. The students engaged in a reflection session each night which was facilitated by group members on a rotating basis.

In preparation, the students met weekly during the semester to learn about the history of the site and the people with whom they would serve. They also fundraised in order to contribute to the cost of their travel and lodging. Prior to beginning, the students came together in the college chapel for a commissioning service.

Upon their return, the students shared photos and stories of the experience with the college community. Some of their comments on their experience were:

  • “An eye-opening and life–changing experience.” (Karen, a junior, Baltimore site);
  • “It taught me there is value in everything in my life, not just material things, but also in the people in my life.” (Daniel John, a senior, Macon site);
  • “We had a place to sleep, a roof over our heads, and two bathrooms. That was a lot more than the people we saw sleeping outside in the cold. I will never take what I have for granted again.” (Edward, a junior, Baltimore site)