The Gustavian Weekly

Kirstin Smedstad: Leading students through Habitat for Humanity | The Gustavian Weekly

By Katie Kaderlik Staff Writer | December 11, 2009 | Gustie of the Week, Variety

Since her first year at Gustavus, Kirstin has worked for Habitat in New Orleans, LA, Mobile, AL and Beaumont, TX. This year she will be working in Miami, FL. Alex Messenger.

Since her first year at Gustavus, Kirstin has worked for Habitat in New Orleans, LA, Mobile, AL and Beaumont, TX. This year she will be working in Miami, FL. Alex Messenger.

Senior Nursing Major Kirstin Smedstad is full of life and wants to make a difference in the world. During her first year at Gustavus, she became involved in Habitat for Humanity by going on the Spring Break Work Trip to New Orleans, LA. This was a way for Kirstin to become involved on campus and meet new people. But most importantly, it helped her to feel connected to her uncle who passed away during the end of her high school career.

Kirstin’s uncle was a general contractor for a large commercial construction company, and she felt connected to him because she was involved in something that he supported. After Kirstin’s first Spring Break Work Trip, she decided to become more involved in the program and in her sophomore year she was a group leader for the spring break work trip to Mobile, AL.

“One of my most memorable moments volunteering for Habitat was my sophomore year in Mobile, AL. When we arrived on site the first day there was only a slab of concrete. By the time the week was over the house was completely framed, ready for windows, shingles and siding. It is amazing how much can get done in one week if everyone has the right mindset and is putting their all into something they believe in,” Kirstin said.

During Kirstin’s junior year, she had the role of being the site coordinator for the trip to Beaumont, TX. “It was a huge undertaking because I did all of the planning for the trip! I was also on the Habitat Executive Board and was in charge of special events coordinating,” Kirstin said.

This year Kirstin is one of the co-presidents for the Executive Board and will be going on the Spring Break Work Trip to Miami,FL as a group leader. “[Kirstin] is a leader not only in her classes, but also on campus. She has a huge heart and is always willing to help,” Senior Nursing Major Jenn Syverson said.

Habitat is a Christian-based organization that relies on volunteers to build houses. Families that receive a Habitat house have to go through a long application process, and once they are approved they are required to work on other homes that are being built or restored. The required hours are called sweat equity hours. Owners of a Habitat house still pay regular bills, but their mortgage is greatly reduced.

“It is cool because the homeowners put a lot of work into their homes, so they take a lot of pride in their homes and work hard for other people as well.  Habitat also benefits from the sweat equity hours in that they don’t have to pay for labor.  Because the homeowners work on their homes or others’ homes, it also allows the volunteers to talk with them and learn about their story.  All around everyone benefits, and it is a really well thought out organization,” Kirstin said.

A typical day on a work trip involves working on a site from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on projects like roofing, framing, painting and many others. During this work time, students have an opportunity to get to know some of the owners and learn more about them. One of the highlights of participating in a work trip is learning about the owner’s experience and seeing the difference you are making, while working alongside them.

“It is important for students to volunteer with Habitat because it allows them to gain real life skills, meet new people and understand that we have all been given a great gift: coming to Gustavus and getting a great education, having a home to live in, food to eat and clothes to keep us warm during the windy winters on campus,” Kirstin said.

The applications for this year’s Spring Break Work Trips are due on Dec. 11 and it is an opportunity to volunteer.

“I like Habitat because it is a great opportunity to be involved with something that I truly believe in. I love the mission of the organization and what it stands for. I love the ability to meet other students and travel to different places both around the St. Peter area and the throughout the U.S.,” Kirstin said.

Kirstin is passionate about helping others, which is reflected in her choice of study: nursing. She has always known that she has wanted to be in the medical field, and when she was younger she wanted to be a neonatologist, but realized she would like to have a more personal and caring relationship with patients, which led her to choose nursing as her major.

“At some point in my nursing career, hopefully sooner than later, I would like to go to Africa and spend at least a month volunteering in a rural clinic or hospital. It has always been a dream of mine to volunteer in an area that so greatly needs our help,” Kirstin said.


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  1. John Groom says:

    I don’t know if you might know the answer to this but I was wondering if any of HH houses are using a concrete stained floor. It does take a couple of days to install and might not work into that type of schedule.

    I donate my time and talents to several charitable projects here in Ga. but have never had any contact with HH folks and would surely like to help.

  2. CL Davison says:

    Going to the hospital is always a traumatic time, whether you are the patient or it is a loved one about to undergo surgery, have a baby, etc.

    Copy the following post and use them as a check list!

    1. Leave all your jewelry, including your watch, at home. Hospitals will not be responsible for any valuables you may choose to bring with you. It is a fairly common occurrence to have things disappear out of a patient’s room while they are sleeping. Most hospital rooms have clocks on the walls so you can keep track of time. Leave the watch at home.
    2. Don’t have your nails done just before you go to the hospital. It will be a waste of money since they will automatically remove all polish upon admission. Even on your toes. They do this so they can see the color of your skin under your nails; it is a way of monitoring your condition.
    3. Whenever possible, have a loved one or good friend visit you every day, if you are the patient. If it is your loved one that is preparing for a hospital stay, make sure that you make arrangements for some time off from work so you can visit every day, even twice (once in the morning and once at night). It is an unfortunate reality that the nursing and ancillary staff will pay more attention to a patient they believe is being monitored by a responsible person. Older patients who have no visitors can be neglected in favor of those who have more outside visitors coming in.
    4. Bring your own comfortable pajamas and robe, but be advised that they must have button or tie openings down the front so the doctors and nurses can examine you without a lot of fussing. If you don’t want to find yourself in one of those infamous hospital dressing gowns, bring your own. If you or your loved one are admitted through the Emergency Department and did not plan on a hospital stay, a good resource is the hospital gift shop. Most on site gift shops carry toothbrushes, hair brushes, pajamas, robes, even slippers! Most hospitals will NOT provide toothbrushes or toothpaste, etc.
    5. Bring all of your prescription drugs but be advised that the hospital will, most likely, take them from you and then have your nurse administer them to you. The theory is that the patient might be confused or sleepy and take the wrong dose, or they might have complications when added to other drugs your doctor may prescribe for you. You may have to ask the nurse to make sure you get your regular medications each day.
    6. Upon discharge, do not simply throw away the plastic hospital bracelet they put on your wrist upon admission. It actually contains encoded personal information that thieves can use to steal your identity. Instead, cut it up into tiny pieces and then discard.