By Jen Walts ’10, ’11
Graduate assistant and trip co-organizer
The sound of hammers is still echoing in my head after our first day on the work site. A day our team had been looking forward to has set quite the expectations for the rest of our work week.
Polite commands from our site coordinator were directed to our team members: “Go grab three 2×6 studs, and don’t forget to make them flush!”
I was forced to quickly recall some construction terminology and get to work. Russell County Habitat for Humanity has been incredible to work with, and I’m simply amazed by their organization and dedication to community improvements.
I’ve served on several trips geared toward humanitarian efforts, but there’s something unique about the energy and commitment of Habitat volunteers. Working alongside volunteers from Canada, Massachusetts, New York and Kentucky, Quinnipiac University’s Alternative Break Trip team has really brought some positive energy to the volunteer group as a whole.
Quinnipiac students have lead “power claps” after morning speeches from our site coordinator, and I think it’s about to become a routine energizer for our fellow volunteers.
On the site, we work with the other 100 Collegiate Challenge volunteers, Phenix City community volunteers and the Habitat coordinators and construction workers.
After an intense day of manual labor, you might imagine our fatigue got the best of our team’s morale.
However, our spirits were extremely high on day one, and I can honestly say most of our smiles and laughter are a general reflection of how welcoming and generous the community of Phenix City has been so far.
Not only are the southern twangs a bit catchy, but the free meals at local churches have provided us with some of the most interesting and rewarding conversations with members of this community.
The amount of “thank you’s” we received on our first day is very telling of how impactful this experience really is. It feels odd to be thanked when we’re provided with so much here, and the amount of thanks we have for this community will certainly grow throughout the week.
The greatest thank you I received today was from a woman named Mary who pointed at one of the houses and told us it would be hers upon its completion. I had just finished hammering in a few nails on the exterior walking of that same house.
A few team members and I stood with Mary and watched our fellow volunteers build the roof of her future home.