Two groups of Brock students dedicated their Reading Week to building houses with Habitat for Humanity in South Carolina and El Salvador.
The Alternative Reading Week has been at Brock for several years now, and students have gone to a variety of destinations including the United States, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Besides building houses, students have also volunteered in school to teach English.
This year, a group of 22 students led by Amber Parker-Scholtens and Koreen McCullough travelled to Sumpter, South Carolina where they stayed at the Church of the Holy Comforter. From Monday to Friday they worked at a site where Habitat for Humanity has been building several houses per year for low-income families.
The Brock team was the first team at the site, which means that they arrived to a blank concrete slab and were responsible for raising the frames of the walls and covering them with plywood-type siding. The team even got as far as raising the first two roof trusses.
“My favourite moment would had to have been connecting with the locals, specifically the neighborhood kids who bonded with the work team over a game of basketball,” said Carson Welychka, a first-year Business Communications student.
The team also worked alongside the homeowners, as a stipulation of receiving a home from Habitat for Humanity is putting in a certain amount of work on the house.
“[The homeowners] were very friendly and open. It was a very eye-opening experience to hear where they came from,” said Jonah Graham, a first-year Tourism Management student.
For most of the participants, their motivation for going on the trip was a decision to give back to the community and to make a positive impact.
“I wanted to make a difference,” said Bliss Gatenby, a Business Communications student. “I wanted to be able to physically do what I have been taught to help with other affiliations that I have been a part of.”
“It has always been a goal of mine to participate in a mission trip and to educate myself on the world in which I live while making a difference,” said Welychka.
Overall, the trip was a very enriching experience and a great learning opportunity for the students.
“Going on this trip gives you a chance to see other peoples life styles and makes you have a better appreciation for things in your life,” said Madison O’Connor, a first-year student in Sociology. “It has also given me a chance to bond and create new friendships with other students.”
“[The trip] has made me aware how fortunate I am – something as simple as having teeth I have now become grateful for,” said Gatenby.
The second group which went to El Salvador consisted of eight team members, led by Kristen Smith. The team worked with the organization Global Village, which is a part of Habitat for Humanity. Though the team was also responsible for building a house, the construction methods were very different. They worked mainly with concrete and rebar, using a hand-tamping method with the cement. The work was very labour intensive and carried out in considerably hot temperatures.
Angela Mott was the Student Coordinator at the Student Life and Community Experience office for the Alternative Reading Week program this year.
“It’s a great opportunity to travel and to spread the goodness that we do here in Canada on a larger scale,” said Mott.
The Alternative Reading Week program will continue to run next year for any interested students. The process is underway to hopefully have a third trip going to Peru as well. For students not wishing to travel internationally, there are also opportunities offered to volunteer locally in the Niagara Region for both the Fall and Winter Reading Weeks.