Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding houses for those in need. This past weekend I volunteered for the Loyola College chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The other students and I worked together to help make a live able house for the owner. Even though it is hard work, I have never regretted volunteering.

Before volunteering to build, everyone must attend an orientation. Stories are read about homelessness, helping, and serving. Together as a group, we read a true story of a man in graduate school who lost his job and was evicted from his apartment. He searched for jobs, but no employers wanted a student employee and he did not have the money to place a payment on an apartment. Sometimes people have bad luck, but that does not mean they are uneducated. The people who live in Habitat houses have encountered bad luck and volunteers want to turn their luck around.

In order to volunteer to serve, a person must understand what it means to serve. To serve means to provide assistance to someone who is in need but it does not intentionally change that person. Through experiences of serving people may change, however, the person who is serving is not trying to alter the man in need. To help someone is to change who that person is; to serve is not synonymous to help. While serving, everyone is treated equally; I am no better then the person I am serving.

Langston Hughes’s poem, “Theme for English B” expresses a similar meaning to serving. In the poem the speaker is asking for understanding. He is an African American who is struggling for equality and wants to show he does and likes the same things as white men. The only difference between the two is how the world views them. The speaker does not want sympathy, only understanding. The owners of the Habitat houses do not want sympathy from the volunteers; they would rather bond with the volunteers. In Habitat for Humanity, all people are equal.

This year, the house Loyola has sponsored is in Sandtown, Baltimore. It is an impoverished town, populated with mostly African Americans. Loyola College has a majority of white people; therefore the volunteers are mostly white. The volunteers are not there to be racist to Sandtown residents, but respect them. In “Queens, 1963,” a young girl is speaking about how Queens is becoming more diverse, with Jews, African Americans, Greeks, and she is Dominican. When she moved to Queens, the city was mostly white, and she felt on the outside. Now new neighbors have moved into the house across the street and some are residents are upset because they are African American. Unfortunately, everyone is still not treated equally. While volunteering, no person is better than another, everyone is considered the same.

This was the second time I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. Last year, I volunteered at the end of the school year and I built a fence for the backyard with another Loyola student and the owner, Omar. While working, I was able to learn more about Omar which helped shape my experience. Unfortunately, an owner for the house this year has not yet been chosen, but everyone still worked together. Instead of a fence, I helped build a wall frame and several window frames. Both experiences were extremely different, but equally rewarding.

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