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.