Alexis Marchitte—The picture featured is of myself and 17 other Brockport students who chose to spend our spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
Recently I became interested in volunteering because of a lecture we had in my English composition class. My professor started asking us what makes our life worth something, what do we have to do in order to make it worthwhile? If you didn’t exist, would the world be any different? After that class, all I could think about was that being 18 years old I’m most likely 1/5th through my life (if I’m lucky) and I haven’t done anything worthwhile yet. It felt like time was closing in on me, which is not the best feeling to have during your “golden years”. So this led me to research information about volunteer programs with AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and other various volunteer groups. All of these programs required you to take time off of school, and unfortunately with the whole time closing in on me situation, I didn’t think that was the best option. Then randomly one day I’m scrolling through Twitter, probably procrastinating my homework, when I come across a retweet from Brockport’s Habitat for Humanity Club saying they need to fill one more spot for their spring break trip. At this point, I’ve already decided that I’m going because it was clearly fate that I saw this tweet. I quickly called my mom and she approved my decision, then I set up everything with the club’s president. Four days later, I’m in a car with 5 other people I just met and we’re about to drive 24 hours to Florida. I was most nervous about not knowing anybody, but we all became friends very quickly and I was actually pretty sad to have to part ways with them when we got back to Brockport.
OK, I’ll start telling you about the trip now. After 24 hours of driving, we finally arrived in Florida Sunday afternoon. We met with our Habitat for Humanity coordinator and got settled into our cabins. We were pretty tired after driving for so long, but we all got up Monday morning at 7am to see the sunrise over the beach that was a 2-minute walk from our cabin. The rest of the day we had free to explore Fort Lauderdale before we started work on Tuesday. We worked Tuesday–Friday every day from 7am to 1pm on four different houses. Three of the houses needed roofing while two of the houses needed window trimmings/bucks finished. I was in the window group; in four days we completed two houses’ worth of windows. We even had the chance to work along with the future homeowner on her house. It was so amazing to meet her, she was so appreciative of us. Habitat for Humanity’s slogan is, “It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up”, and that’s exactly what we were doing in Fort Lauderdale. Habitat strives to make a stepping stone for individuals, somewhere they can start to improve their lives and move ahead. It was an incredible experience, and the sense of community was just overwhelming. We had a group of 65 college students from all over the country working together on these houses. We were led by a group of volunteers who were retired and chose to spend their retired lives traveling across the country to build homes for those in need. Every aspect of this trip was remarkable from the sense of community to the actual work we accomplished.
This picture is with our Habitat for Humanity coordinator, Elliot (far right) who made this trip possible for Brockport students. In the background is one of the houses we were working on. We were wearing pink shirts to support women! Surprisingly, most of the volunteers were women — Girl Power!
I know that I didn’t solve world peace over spring break, but I think I really made a difference in the lives of those future homeowners. Not only did I impact their lives, but they’ve impacted mine as well. I learned a lot about hard work, team work, and even how to build a house. I think I learned a lot about myself over the past week too, what kind of person I am and what kind of person I want to strive to be. Over this past week, I made friends, made memories, and learned valuable lessons to last a lifetime. Ever since I returned to Brockport, I can see how the trip has affected me. I am more appreciative of everything I took for granted, I find myself engulfed in happiness more often, and I have a better sense of what I want to do with my future. For the time being, my itch to travel and volunteer has been scratched, but I am already looking into future opportunities. I am planning to spend my next spring break with Habitat for Humanity again, and my eyes have been glued to Brockport’s Study Abroad website looking for more opportunities to travel and volunteer. If I had to pick one piece of advice to give to everyone, it would be to not waste any more time, go out and do what makes you happy. Do something out of your comfort zone, experience new things, help others and put yourself out there. You won’t regret it.