This year marks the second annual Fall Break trip for the Gustavus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. A group of 15 students will travel to Alexandria, Minn. on Oct. 18 to experience four days of volunteering at different sites in the community.
Both the Fall and Spring Break trips are unique because the participants, as well as the coordinators, for the most past, unaware of what they will be doing in the communities they will be visiting.
The volunteers will simply be asked to help with whatever is needed on that particular day. In the past, the group’s assignments have ranged from building and painting homes to community-building activities to visiting soup kitchens.
Habitat for Humanity Coordinator Dave Newell acknowledges that the organization’s trips are unconventional compared to the typical vacation of a college student, but stresses the importance of their lasting impact.
“What Habitat is about is creating a meaningful experience for students. It’s about understanding that it’s connected to the community. It’s about understanding the purpose of doing it for affordable housing, and really doing what they can to make a difference,” Newell said.
Senior Co-President of Habitat for Humanity Brooke Meyer expressed her enthusiasm for the program, as well.
“It is an awesome experience. I honestly don’t know anyone who has had a bad experience. It is a really rewarding program to be in,” Meyer said.
Last year, Habitat for Humanity introduced the Fall Break Trip as a way to expand the program. The group traveled to the Iron Range of Virginia, Minn. Formerly, Gustavus Habitat’s two main events, “Act, Speak, Build Week” and the Spring Break trip, took place within two weeks of each other.
“We decided to go to Alexandria because Tristan Richards ‘13 works as a AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at that affiliate. She is working with us to plan the trip, and we’ll have the chance to work with her while we’re there,” Meyer said.
By introducing the shorter and less expensive ($80) Fall trip, Gustavus Habitat for Humanity is providing another trip opportunity for students, as well as getting the word out about their organization all year round.
A few changes will be made to the Fall Break trip this year to incorporate more workshop and reflection type activities. Community building and personal reflection are two aspects of the Habitat for Humanity Program that often go unnoticed.
“We are very intentional about having it be reflective and meaningful and involve community building so that way when we go someplace it’s not about [taking a vacation], but we’re really actually engaging with the people, getting to know the place deeper than just what a tourist would understand,” Newell said.
Senior Co-President of Habitat for Humanity Ashley Perish believes that the service trips have a significant impact on the community.
“I definitely think that when we do the trips, we make an impact on the community around us, which is something that people don’t always notice or think of,” Perish said.
Although registration for this year’s fall trip has already closed, it’s not too early to consider the spring trip, which usually travels to three different locations on the Gulf Coast. Roughly 100 students participate in the spring trip each year, and the spots can fill up in as little as four hours. The cost for the spring trip is between $300-$400 range. Applications will come out towards the end of November.
Meyer encourages those interested to give it a try.
“I feel like a ton of Gusties are always excited to give back to the community, meet new people, and try new things. The fall break and spring break trips are a great way to do that,” Meyer said.