The Impact of a Week with Habitat

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By Cara Przybylowicz, Volunteer and Community Relations Manager

Last week, Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA hosted our annual Collegiate Challenge Trip.  Collegiate Challenge is a week-long trip during spring break in which college students dedicate their entire week to serving with Habitat Affiliates all across the country.  For the past 10 years, Habitat Montco has been hosting Assumption College from Worcester, Massachusetts. 

Thankful for this long-standing tradition, we did a little digging to find out what keeps Assumption coming back year after year.  Assumption College first began coming to our affiliate because of the close connection they had with the Assumption sisters in our area.  “We continue to come back because it seems to be a really nice fit for us,” said Vincent Sullivan-Jacques, Assumption College’s Campus Ministry leader.  “The affiliate is very accommodating and easy to work with year in and year out, and there are also a lot of great opportunities in the area, especially being so close to Philadelphia.”  This year, the students worked in our ReStore for one day, and on Habitat construction sites for three days, leaving them one day to explore Philadelphia’s history.

We asked the students why they wanted to be a part of this trip and how they got involved, and there were several answers, which shows the diversity within this group of students.  Sophomore Kathy Montgomery said, “I wanted to try something new, and I thought that this would be a great bonding experience with my peers as well as something good for the community.”  The group certainly did bond throughout the week, and we at Habitat witnessed each day the ways that community service brings people together.

“This was my first time doing anything like this with community service or building, and I thought it would be great to get a new experience and do some good in the process,” says Junior, Jean-Pierre Tetreauit.  Collegiate Challenge is such a good experience for college students to really step out of their comfort zone and make a difference in the community.  They don’t need to have construction experience for these trips, so they get to learn new skills and have a hands-on experience of helping the community. 

“It’s been really cool to learn more about Habitat in general and to learn why things are done how they are.  It is great to know it’s more than just building houses,” said Amber Kelley, while referencing the Neighborhood Revitalization and Critical Home Repair programs that we have at Habitat Montco.

Junior Corrine Murphy made a great point, saying, “With Habitat you can really see that you’re making a difference.”  At the end of the week, they were able to see the tangible gift of their own hard work and helping hands for those we serve, this year including a backyard garden, insulation, and interior woodwork at two of our Habitat homes in Norristown.

This trip was very special for one student in particular, Senior Caitlin Schofield, known by her peers as “CJ”.  This was not the first go-around for her, as she had previously worked with us on Collegiate Challenge two years ago.  When asked why she wanted to come back, CJ said, “This trip made such an impact on me.  At the end of my first trip here to Montgomery County, I said to the current leader, I’m going to lead this trip one day.”

Sure enough, she was back this year, leading her senior trip.  CJ said that she has enjoyed the trip and getting to witness how this trip is impacting the other students, just as it did for her. 

These 10 Assumption College students put in a lot of hard work last week doing various projects throughout Norristown and at the ReStore.  They are truly a benefit to our community and our entire staff enjoyed getting to work with such kind, hardworking, and dedicated students.  Habitat Montco would like to give a huge thank you to these students, and would love to have them back anytime!  We are already looking forward to next year!