Delaney Cassidy NOLA Build Trip 2015

Hi everyone! My name is Delaney Cassidy.  I am currently a sophomore at WPI studying Biomedical Engineering.  This past winter break I had the honor of traveling to Louisiana with my school’s Habitat for Humanity to participate in the club’s annual build trip, and I can honestly say that it was the most rewarding, enjoyable, eye-opening experience I have ever had the pleasure of doing.  I was familiar with the concept of a build trip but had never been presented with the opportunity to actually become involved in one.  Habitat for Humanity was the first club I joined freshman year, and it’s crazy to think that I’ve done so much with the organization and impacted so many lives in just over a year’s time.

Going on this build trip really made me appreciate the little things in life, as well as grasp a better understanding of the Habitat for Humanity organization as a whole.  I learned more than I could ever put to words: It wasn’t only the physical things like learning how to hammer in nails and put up plywood – I learned the value of hard work, and what it actually means to receive a house from Habitat.  Homeowners really have to work for and want the house that Habitat helps them build – they put in hundreds of hours of ‘sweat equity’ and deserve everything they get.  On top of building houses, Habitat sponsors homeownership classes for the future homeowners so they have a real chance of succeeding in their new lives.  One of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing one of the homeowners walk into her future house, the house we were working on, with a genuine look of gratitude.  The work we did in Louisiana actually made a difference on multiple peoples’ lives.

Aside from the house-building part of the trip, I loved exploring the city of New Orleans for a day; being exposed to such a different culture was really exciting.  Excursions like this, and our nightly debriefing sessions, really brought the entire group together.  I made so many new friends and formed bonds with people who I don’t think I would’ve been able to connect with if it hadn’t been for this trip.  Overall, the week I spent in Louisiana opened my eyes to so many new things and was a worthwhile experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Janine Fatal NOLA Build Trip 2015

Hi everyone! My name is Janine Fatal and I am a sophomore at WPI studying Biomedical Engineering. I joined Habitat for Humanity about a year ago as a way to get more involved on campus, not knowing how much of an impact it would have on me one year later. Participating in the week-long build trip to Louisiana without a doubt has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Before going on this trip, I did not know how Habitat for Humanity really worked. I pictured it as an organization simply giving away houses, but throughout the week I learned about what happens behind the scenes. Families in need apply to have a house built for them, and in return, they give back to the community as well by putting in hours volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. They also attend classes that teach them how to maintain their home and other responsibilities. Learning about this made me even more grateful to be part of such a great organization, which is always striving to give back to the community as much as possible and helping families be the best they can be, even after their houses are built.

In addition to learning about the philosophy behind Habitat for Humanity, I also had the opportunity to leave my comfort zone and do things I never pictured myself doing. I was surprised about how much the construction workers let us do. There were many things that they probably could have done faster on their own, but they took the time to teach us how to do it. Whether it was sealing the cracks on the inside of the house to conserve energy, hammering in the sheeting on the outside of the house, or climbing up a ladder to nail in a hard to reach area, my classmates and I put in 110% effort, and we knew that the construction workers were doing the same by dedicating their time to not only building houses, but teaching people with very little experience to have an impact on the process as well.

I am beyond thankful for the bonds that I made with the people on this trip who I would probably not have met otherwise. Going into the week, I only knew a couple of people very well, but by the end I could honestly say that I considered every member of the trip a friend. Throughout the week, we learned fun facts about each other, and shared what we learned each night when we met to have our debrief. I look forward to continuing the friendships with the people I connected with on this trip and seeing their smiling faces around campus. I was also amazed at how kind every single person was who I met along the way. From the woman who I met at a flea market making her living by selling hand-made earrings, to the volunteers at the Restore who dedicate their time to their community each and every day, I learned the meaning of the term “southern hospitality.” It became clear to me how easy it is to be happy, by simply being thankful for what you have and by always lending a helping hand to others without expecting anything in return.

Kimberlee Kocienski

Watching the sunrise over Louisiana as our plane took me home was one of the most breathtaking sights and a perfect way to end an amazing week. I learned how to use different tools and actually put up walls in a house, explored a city full of rich culture and pride, and create friendships that I never would’ve had if it weren’t for going on this build trip. I have learned so much about everything Habitat for Humanity has to offer and the whole process of people having to actually put in hours of working for Habitat, as well as taking classes to teach them how to maintain their houses. I think this process is something that makes volunteering for Habitat that much more important.  We’re lending a helping hand for people who not only are in need of a new home, but are willing to put in the time and effort to earn it. As I watched the sun slowly rise to start off my day, I realized that this trip was much more than learning how to hammer a nail and build a house, but to help create a new home and guide people to the start of their new and better lives.  Not only have I learned so much about New Orleans, Habitat, and the amazing group of people I got to share this experience with, but I learned a lot about myself.  I was able to push through my comfort zone when at the build site.  Being able to branch out try new things helped feed into the confidence that I have the ability to actually help people.  I also realized the type of attitude I should have about life. One with positivity and patience. These two things alone I saw everywhere during our week, and had a big impact when interacting with people to successfully get things done. Basically everyone I interacted with was always so kind and giving.  They were all-around happy people. One thing I will never forget about this trip is that happiness is truly contagious.  You never know what someone could be going through and just a welcoming smile or ounce of positivity could be mean everything.  Being on this trip also helped me realize how grateful I am for everything I have and all of the great opportunities I have been presented with.  And even though I am truly blessed, something could happen in the blink of an eye where everything could be taken away from me.  This life-changing experience proves why you should enjoy and be grateful for everything you have today, always give out a helping hand when you can, and in the end do what truly makes you happy.

Leanne Sickles NOLA Build Trip 2015

Hi everyone! My name is Leanne Sickles and I am a sophomore studying architectural engineering. When I decided to be a part of Habitat for Humanity, I was looking to learn more about construction through hands on experience. After going on the build trip this year I found that being a part of Habitat for Humanity was much more rewarding than I had hoped. During the week that we were there, we each spent three days on the build site and one day in the Restore. The main things that we did at the build site were paint and hang the outside walls of a house. Both of these things, as well as the many little tasks that we did, provided me with the hands on experience that I was really looking forward to. The one day spent at the Restore allowed me to realize why being a part of Habitat is so great. Everyone’s gratefulness for our volunteering our time to help others was amazing to see and it really makes me want to remain a part of Habitat. Going into the week I was not sure what to expect because I had never been on a build trip before and I did not know anyone else that was going on the trip. Now looking back I am very happy that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone because being able to gain experience in the field that I love while both helping others and having fun makes me excited for the many more experiences I will have with Habitat.

Great Start to a Great Year

There are not many things better than starting off the 2015 year with a trip to New Orleans, right? How about a trip to New Orleans where you get to experience the city to its fullest and still do something great for the local community that makes you feel good? Now that sounds just a little bit better. That is exactly what I was able to do on the 2015 Build Trip to New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity.  I was excited to go to the city of New Orleans because I had never been and I have always enjoyed visiting new cities.  However, I never expected to enjoy the trip as much as I did.  Aside from the fact that we helped change the lives of some of the locals, the one thing that I was very pleasantly surprised by were the people who accompanied me on the trip.  I was kind of expecting to come into a group of people who already knew eachother and would not really take notice to me while we were down there. However, these group of people viewed me more as an equal even though they did not know me and included me in a lot of the activities and discussions that took place down there.  I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend my time down there with and I could not have thought of a better way to kick off my year than to spend in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity.

Kayla McAvoy NOLA Build Trip 2015

Hi my name is Kayla McAvoy and I am majoring in Management Information Systems. Going to New Orleans was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had since being at WPI. I was exposed to working on a build site that will soon benefit multiple families that are in need of a home. As many people probably know, New Orleans was hit very badly by Hurricane Katrina and is still recovering from it. The devastation effected the entire community deeply. People lost everything, which is pretty hard to imagine. There’s really no better feeling than watching the progress of the homes that our group helped and knowing that all of the hard physical work that we put in this passed week are going to help those in need and those who are less fortunate. Over the course of the week, we did a lot of painting, hammering, cutting, and putting up the sides of the houses. Each person was scheduled to work at the Habitat ReStore one time as well. Interestingly enough, the ReStore in New Orleans was a lot bigger than the one we have in Worcester, but has way less volunteers. We performed jobs from hanging clothing to sweeping the floors as well as assisting customers. This trip to New Orleans was an overall great experience and I would definitely go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Missy Bernard NOLA Build Trip 2015

As a freshman, I joined Habitat for Humanity in the fall as a way to become more involved in the WPI community and beyond in a way that I knew would be rewarding and meaningful as the club revolves around service. I had heard about the organization at home, but never knew how to become involved. On campus, joining was simply writing my email down on the mailing list, and I never knew that those strokes of my pen would lead me to the places and experiences I have had through Habitat so far. That they could take me to New Orleans, Louisiana with a group of strangers who became friends.

My first plane ride marked the beginning of this trip followed by my first oyster and my first professional basketball game while spending the day in the city and my first time really using a hammer on the build site. This trip is not only memorable because of these firsts, but because the Habitat for Humanity’s mission became the reality I was partaking in during this week. Learning more about New Orleans, Habitat, and the reasons for homelessness including such catastrophic storms as Hurricane Katrina that caused losses impossible to put into words, I was experiencing personal growth simultaneously as we turned the wooden frames of houses into what could be a sanctuary, a shelter, a home. To think that we lifted and nailed in the walls of a house is amazing and to see the progress of these houses each day and to think I was a part of it, a part of providing someone a hand-up with this home, is a feeling that I find difficult to describe.

Habitat’s mission not only gives hope to people in Louisiana and beyond to have a place to rest their heads at night, raise a family, etc. but hope to humanity that people can help each other. Although the construction workers who mentored us could have completed our tasks much faster, it was our numbers and our ability to learn that made teaching us worthwhile and to work all together more effective. The patience and the kindness of these mentors and the people in the city who expressed nothing but gratitude after hearing that we were part of Habitat for Humanity made this experience an irreplaceable, meaningful, fulfilling one. A greater appreciation for my life and circumstances grew from this trip as each day I realized how blessed I am and how I can use that to help other people. The places I visited, people I met, and team who I truly became a team with made this trip more than just a trip. Every nail I bent while working on the build site was equivalent to one minute of laughter with this easygoing, kind, selfless group of people that make up WPI’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and that was a lot.