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.