Habitat for Humanity – Wintersession 2017


10 teenagers and 2 adults stood in front of a metal moose at 4 in the morning, waiting to check our bags at the Manchester Airport. We confused security (what do you mean, you’re all one group?), got Starbucks, and saw the sunrise as we landed in Baltimore, Maryland.  We were on our way to a week of volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity Choptank. Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit that builds houses in nearly 1,400 communities in the U.S., as well as operating in over 70 countries worldwide. Their goal; a world where everyone has safe and affordable shelter.  Souhegan’s students and faculty were just a few of Habitat’s more than 1.8 million yearly volunteers.

Thursday and Friday’s project: siding a house

A volunteer orientation on Monday took place at a house we would be working on later in the week. We met the volunteer coordinator and the building coordinator for the area, and a Habitat homeowner called Pumpkin. Pumpkin described the process of applying for a Habitat home, which includes paying the mortgage and volunteering for the organization. After the orientation, we were all ready to go back to the church we were staying at and nap. We would start to work the next day.

Our main goal for the week was to get siding on a remodeled house. Last year’s Wintersession trip had helped demolish this same house so that it could be rebuilt to meet Habitat Choptank’s standards. However, it rained for our first two workdays. We spent Tuesday painting, organizing, sweeping and dusting a ReStore, a Habitat-affiliated home improvement store. Profits from ReStores go directly back to building projects; so consider shopping at the Nashua location next time you need building supplies.

Students take a break at the ReStore

On Wednesday, we went back to the house we were at on Monday to put in cement board for the tile floors. We covered the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. In the afternoon, half of our group went to start the siding work. That evening, we went to an Edgar Allan Poe-themed escape room. It was not easy at all. It was a lot of fun, and a good team building challenge for our next day of construction.

Students at Mission Escape Room in Annapolis

Thursday and Friday were completely devoted to putting siding on the house. Jobs included cutting, nailing, and painting the siding, and assembling scaffolding to build from.

The build site was right across from the local middle school, where Pumpkin drove a school bus. Every afternoon, she would drive by and beep at us, and we would wave. In two and a half days, our group and five other volunteers managed to complete over half the house.  We said goodbye to the other volunteers and went back to the church. Early Saturday morning, we would take a plane home.

Habitat for Humanity was different from other Wintersessions, not just because it was one of the few that didn’t get snowed out, but because it felt like we were really making a difference. The work we did, the houses we helped build, would belong to people like Pumpkin, hardworking people in need of affordable housing. I met people who had devoted countless hours of their time to help others. It was an amazing experience, and I hope I can do something like it again.
If you’d like to support a Habitat for Humanity location near you, or learn more about the organization, please visit their website.