Washington College junior field hockey player Erin Lewns was among the 35 Washington College students, faculty, and staff who took part in the school's annual Habitat for Humanity Spring Break trip last month. (Freshman volleyball player Kate Liccione was among the other students on the trip.) Lewns reflects on her experience:
For five straight days in March, a team of 35 Washington College students and staff transformed stacks of plywood, two-by-fours, roofing materials, hundreds of nails, sheathing , siding, fiberglass tubs, windows, and doors into a new home for one Columbus, Ga., woman.
For my spring break, I participated in this effort through Habitat for Humanity. One of Habitat's goals is to provide partnership housing for low-income neighborhoods. Columbus, where we worked, was just that. The city was strewn with demolished houses, foreclosed homes, vacant commercial buildings, and small run-down convenient stores still in use. While we worked, there were homeless people walking all along the streets and many bystanders watching.
The home that we built was the third Habitat house in that specific neighborhood. We were very fortunate to have the spring break Habitat program extended another week so that our Washington College volunteers could build one home from start to finish.
During our visit I felt very welcome. As we were giving to the community, the other Habitat residents were giving back to us through meals and hospitality. The community opened their churches for us as a make-shift dormitory, the Presbyterian student center provided one of our meals, as did other sponsors such as Chik-fil-A and Honey Baked Ham.
One evening we traveled about a half an hour outside of Columbus to Soma farms, owned by the CEO of AFLAC. We were treated to a traditional southern cookout featuring pulled pork, a blue grass band, and skeet shooting. I learned to fire a twelve gage shotgun and even nicked one of the clay pigeons!
I found this trip profoundly inspirational. All of the Washington College students on this trip were very passionate about building this new home. We worked eight-hour days, through rain, little sleep, and chilly mornings, and worked on an additional two unfinished homes, closely finishing one of them.
One of the most moving experiences I enjoyed was having the chance to meet the new homeowner of the house that we were building, Ms.Wanda Banks. It was so rewarding to see the smile on her face knowing that she would finally receive her very own home and a brand new one at that. The progress we made each day working alongside Wanda and one of her daughters was the most incredible part. It was incredibly amazing how 35 untrained people could build a house in just 5 days.
Going on this trip and experiencing such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment helped to forge a new bond within this WAC group. I met many new students from this school and after the week was over we considered each other family. I must say that prior to my participation with Habitat for Humanity I never so much as picked up a hammer. Now I'm able to proudly profess that I was instrumental in building someone a place to call home.