Forty students from Lawrence University departed at midnight on Friday, March 17 for a 36-hour journey down to Miami, Fla. to take part in a Habitat for Humanity build for the entirety of spring break.
Planning for the trip began at the start of the school year because the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge program required a $20-per-person deposit at the start of Fall Term. Sophomore Emily McLane, the trip organizer, obtained the deposit money through a grant from Lawrence University Community Council.
As for the bus ride down, Eli Hungerford, co-president of Habitat, admitted he “liked it a lot better than he thought he would,” because of the animated bus drivers, Wi-Fi on board, extended stopover in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and dinner at the Smoky Mountain Brewery.
Although Hungerford did not acquire much sleep because of his conversations and extensive reading, freshman Sarah Tiano affirmed that she slept 27 hours on the way to Miami and 26 on the way back to Appleton.
The students arrived at their building site on Monday morning of March 19 for a two-hour orientation, and then took the bus to South Beach for a day of sunbathing. As a result, “everyone got really red,” according to McLane.
The rest of the week consisted of working on a couple of houses from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then ending with recreation and relaxation time. Because of Lawrence’s extensive group, students rotated through different work sites daily. The work consisted of an abundant amount of dry walling, insulating, painting, window installation, and re-organizing of the expansive Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
On Wednesday, one of the Habitat Miami benefactors hosted the entire Lawrence group for a Cuban dinner at his shop; it was “great way to de-stress,” according to McLane. The next day, a going-away celebration took place at the “Wherehouse” for all two hundred of the collegiate student volunteers working that week.
The houses needed to be exceptionally sturdy because Florida is prone to hurricanes. Therefore, attention to detail was essential. Luckily, the site directors were “really good about hands-on teaching, and were a lot of fun to work with,” according to Hungerford.
McLane enthusiastically explained that she was able to work with the homeowner of the house she labored on throughout the trip, and realized that “he truly cared about his house.” Tiano also enjoyed listening to the contractors’ fascinating stories about their experiences on the job and found that “working in an area full of poverty was a completely new experience.” Sophmore Claire Francis said, “I [liked that I] could help people in need while enjoying Miami’s beaches and nightlife. Hungerford expressed a similar opinion when he said, “It was a nice balance between work, volunteering and leisure.”
Weekly Habitat meetings on campus consist of planning fundraising and education events as well as building trips. Lawrence’s Habitat chapter is affiliated with the Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity chapter, so students regularly participate in builds throughout the Fox Cities area.