Habitat for Humanity: A Personal Account of the NOLA Winter Break Experience

By AMY WOJTOWICZ

Staff Writer

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Walking into the fall 2016 Salisbury University Activities Fair with an open mind, I perused the many booths aligned in the gym all trying to persuade eager students with the same goal. The Volunteer Center’s booth caught my eye, offering a volunteer trip with Habitat for Humanity to New Orleans, Louisiana. If you are unsure about what Habitat for Humanity stands for, they are a nonprofit group that gathers workers and volunteers to help construct a house for someone in need of a home, or a new safe home.

That night I convinced my mom that taking this trip was necessary, for it was always my dream to travel and work with something as big as Habitat. A month later, my first check payment was in and there was no turning back.

The good thing about my Habitat NOLA trip was that it was over winter break, though there is also one offered over spring break. The trip was at that perfect time during winter break when I was getting bored at home and eager to head back to Salisbury. On the morning of our trip, I woke up with a mix of excitement and nervous anxiety. I was excited for the trip but unsure of what I was getting myself into; I only knew one person on the trip and I had no idea how to build a house. Still, all the seemingly reasonable fears I had wound up meaning nothing when I got there.

For the six days spent in Louisiana, you are given a ton of free time to explore the notorious French Quarter. Then, on weekdays, you work with Habitat during the day and then can use your free time at night to explore the city.

Don’t fret about running out of things to do in New Orleans; the friends I had made on the trip and I explored as much as we could and still did not check everything off our list.  From getting beignets and coffee at Café Du Monde, exploring New Orleans Botanical Gardens, walking Bourbon Street, visiting the voodoo, Mardi Gras, and Hurricane Katrina museums, seeing the Mississippi River for the first time or getting the baby in the king cake, there is something for everyone.

Through volunteering with Rhino, the church that sponsors Habitat in NOLA, you learn about the history of Hurricane Katrina and the true impact it had on New Orleans. With knowledge of hurricane damage and the city, building the house feels more important than it did before.

Some of the most rewarding feelings from the trip were painting a house, learning how to side a house, and laying laminate flooring, all of which you are taught to do, so there is no need to worry if you have no experience. Also, meeting the owner of the house or other people who are putting in their volunteer hours for their homes really made the experience feel complete.

At the end of the trip, I remember wanting to feel excited to work on the house, but all I could feel was sadness due to the fact that it was time to leave and go back and face reality. The whole experience was life changing, providing a whole new perspective and broadening your mind. This trip not only benefits you mentally and personally, but is something to add to your resumes for future jobs.

If you are having doubts about the trip because you do not have any experience in building a house or you do not know anyone who is signed up, remember that this is the perfect time in your life to experience this. Do not let fear get in the way of doing something that you wish to do, for college is a place to learn how to step out of your shell, take risks and gain experience. NOLA 2016 will be a memory I have forever, and would not trade for anything.

 

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