STUDENTS’ SERVICE DURING SPRING BREAK BENEFITS FAMILIES IN WEST VIRGINIA, KENTUCKY
There’s something to be said for getting plenty of rest during spring break, but there are many rewards, both physically and mentally, for those students who chose to spend that chilly week in March hammering, sawing, drilling, and painting new houses as part of 8th Dimension’s HOAP (Housing Outreach Action Program).
Through HOAP, volunteers from Haverford and Bryn Mawr are sent to building sites throughout the country, where they help construct houses for low-income families. This year, groups visited West Virginia and Kentucky.
At the “Almost Heaven” Habitat for Humanity site in Pendleton County, W.Va., students spent the week building and erecting exterior walls for the future residence of the Kuykendall family. “One highlight was when the leader at the site trusted us to put an entire interior wall together without supervision,” says Laura Brown ’05. “When we were completed, he said it was the only wall that didn’t have a problem!”
The Haverford and Bryn Mawr volunteers worked alongside a group from nearby St. Joseph’s University, and the students bonded over games and a talent show. The workers also attended two big community events: a “Lenten Lunch” sponsored every Thursday during Lent by different churches and a house blessing for one of Habitat’s recent completions. “Attending the house blessing ceremony was a really interesting experience because we got to see someone appreciate the organization’s hard work,” says Ruth Stein ’07. “We saw that what we were doing at the Kuykendall site would change someone’s life.”
The second group traveled to Morehead, Ky., a college town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. They worked with Frontier Housing, a private non-profit serving nine counties in northeastern Kentucky. “Since starting up with only four volunteers, Frontier Housing has grown over its 30 years in existence to a company of more than 20 full-time employees and many volunteers from all over the country,” explains Erika Haglund ’05. “They will have built 26 houses this fiscal year.” Frontier Housing serves some of the country’s poorest areas, where a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line and the median income is just over half the national average.
The volunteers helped with several projects, including repainting and cleaning up an interior, reshingling a roof, and framing an entire house. During their down time, the students took a driving tour of the area, attended open-mike night at a local coffee house, went hiking, and enjoyed dinner and a program with their hosts, the Newman Club of Morehead State University. “It was very hard work,” says Haglund, “but well worth it for all involved.”
Laura Brown agrees, and hopes that more students will take advantage of the HOAP experience in the future. “It’s so much more rewarding for the community and the soul than any alcohol-filled island spring break trip could be,” she says.