Spring Break for Habitat
Spring break is usually a time when college students take trips to relax, go to the beach or hang out with friends, but ONU’s Habitat for Humanity group does spring break a little differently.
For the past 13 years, students from ONU have been spending their spring breaks building houses and helping to rebuild the lives of people in need, from places devastated by hurricanes or from impoverished areas in the United States or other countries.
This year, 49 ONU students went to Jackson, 35 students went to Slidell, LA and another 30 journeyed to Winston-Salem, NC. Dr. Jeffrey Allison, (professor of pharmacy practice for the College of Pharmacy), the Jackson groups’ faculty advisor said, “We are here to build houses, but possibly more importantly, to build relationships…that is what the trip is about.”
Freshman Chad Rounds, shares his journal about working for Habitat and his week in Jackson:
On the Way
It may not seem like everyone’s spring break dream, but we had a great time getting to know each other better on the 16-hour bus ride to Jackson. Bus driver for the last 14 years, Bill Kanzig (machinist in ONU’s College of Engineering), got us there Sunday morning. We spent the day socializing and bonding. The first workday was approaching and we were all excited.
By the end of today I had put siding on 2 exterior walls with the team. Above me shingles were being attached to the roof. Across the street, the other ONU students framed an entire house and had built the roof tresses. Everyone worked diligently and our effort was visible.
Today we had beautiful weather, but the real challenge of the day was installing hurricane ties (which secure the roof to the home for extra protection in storms). Many students complained of many hours spent on EACH tie. It felt like we were back in elementary school as we climbed through the “jungle gym” of scaffolding around the homes.
“Hump of the week” Day
Everyone had an extra burst of energy and we really pushed to get the homes into a more complete state. We finished the siding on home #1, and lots of team members spent the day endlessly caulking joints and putting up roofing and siding on home #2. The worksite is an important element on the Habitat trips, but the friendships and fellowship make the trip what it is. We are encouraged to take time away from building and speak with members of the community who opened their hearts to us. They were curious about what we were doing, and wanted to help however they could. A bus driver made banana pudding for all the workers, a pastor made a very generous donation, and the Baptist hospital provided free food for three nights.
Tornado warnings today forced several students off the job in some areas. Those of us who could work, finished trimming, painting, and working on tile preparation. That evening we enjoyed games, crawdads, and fellowship.
Last day in Jackson, MS
We were really finding our rhythm today as we worked and sang along with the radio. We finished our work and ended the day with a beautiful dedication ceremony. The four new homeowners, Habitat affiliates, ONU students, and members of the Jackson community gathered. Kevin Zak, Pharm 4 and treasurer for ONU’s Habitat group, spoke for all of us when he said that ONU students did not ‘give up’ their spring breaks to work for Habitat, but that this was our spring break.
The final night back at the house we said our goodbyes, participated in the famous “Jackson Hug Circle”, and shared roses and thorns which meant that every evening each student shared one rose (good aspect) from our day and one thorn (bad aspect). People’s personalities made this a fun time each evening.As we boarded the bus Saturday morning and pulled away from Jackson, we were proud and happy that we had built two new homes for deserving people in Jackson, MS. For 14 years Habitat has built a connection in the Jackson community and helped improve the quality of life for hundreds of homeowners. Habitat helps rebuild communities on a grassroots level and the community really welcomes and supports us with open arms and love. We “took Jackson home with us” in pictures, memories, laughs, and in the 50 new friends we made.