Over Spring Break 2012, a group of 12 Hofstra students ventured to El Paso, Texas to help a needy family build a new home. The trip was sanctioned by Habitat for Humanity—a non-profit organization dedicated to building homes for those in need—but also gave the students ample opportunity to explore the culture of El Paso.
The trip is centered on building a house for a family who is unable to do so for themselves. Through the trip, students are able to make are to contribute to a great cause, while still being able to make great connections and sight-see. Along with the students, the family, whose house is being built, also contributes to the work. The family consists of a mother, father, and three young girls—aged 4, 8, and 12. Habitat for Humanity requires the family to put in at least 200-250 hours of work into the construction of the house. Once the house is built, the mortgage is handled by Habitat for Humanity so that there is less of a financial strain put on the family.
Sarah Young, Executive Director for Student Leadership and Activities, was one of those in charge of applying for, planning, and organizing the trip.
“We offer the alternative spring break trip every year” said Young. “Students volunteer for the trip and, normally, we plan the trip the year before in November and December. [This year] we applied to the Habitat to Humanity trip for El Paso and were accepted” added Young.
In order to help raise money to make the trip possible, students supported various efforts around the Hofstra campus. Most of these events were overseen by Zoe Hoffmann, a freshman, who was fulfilling her first leadership role at Hofstra as the Student Coordinator of the Alternative Spring Break. Hoffman was responsible for coordinating different activities, dinners, organizing money, helping run meetings, as well as various other tasks that were essential to getting the trip on track. Hoffmann, along with other students, executed programs around campus to raise enough money for the trip.
“We raised money by selling $1 cut out houses for the trip at atrium tables for about a week and also had a crafts table at the Irish Festival” said Hoffman. “I believe we rose about $500/600 doing that, and then the rest of the money was raised through donations made by friends and family” added Hoffman.
The group began their trip on April 8th when they arrived in El Paso. Accompanying the students were Ashley Gray, Assistant Director in Student Leadership and Activities, and Terry Greis, an Alternative Spring Break Advisor. Gray and Greis were the senior overseers of the trip who made sure everything went planned. After arriving at El Paso, the group took the remainder of the day to relax and settle in. This consisted of dinner, sightseeing, and even some dancing in the rain. Overall, the group seemed to love their newly discovered surroundings.
“I think everyone else was shocked by the vastness of the desert and the mountains [of El Paso]” said Hoffman. “It was amazing how El Paso and Juarez (Mexico) could look so similar, but have such different cultures and histories” added Hoffman.
However, the next day, the students got down to business. After a quick trip through the city, the group began work on the house. The work consisted mostly of cleaning, landscaping, painting, and sheet-rocking. Although exhausting, students found the work to be quite rewarding.
“I think we were all surprised at how big the house was” said Hoffman. “We were renovating an old house to give to the family and it was of decent size and located in a nice neighborhood” added Hoffman.
Normally, with these trips, students work for four out of the five days and use the fifth day as a day to relax and take in the city and its surroundings. However, this group of students was determined to put as much work into the house as possible.
“We planned for our day off to be Thursday, but on Wednesday night the students decide to go without a day off so that they could continue work on the house” said Gray. “The trip really opened up everybody’s eyes about El Paso; it was phenomenal” added Gray.
After Friday, the trip came to an end. Many of the students who attended the trip report to have had a great time on it and really felt great about contributing to a needy cause.
“The family was so deserving and hardworking; it was an honor to help build their house” said Hoffman.
Originally published: The Hofstra Chronicle (April 19th, 2012, page A-3)
Story ran in The Hofstra Chronicle titled as “Building homes away from home: Students go near and far to help Habitat for Humanity Families” and was written in collaboration with Rachel Miller.