Several students went on a trip to Battlecreek, Michigan from July 26 to August 2, where they helped the community through the volunteer program, Habitat for Humanity.
Jake Skinner and Joe Kosidowski, juniors, as well as Helena Rose, Dylan Larson-Harsch and Elizabeth Hayes, seniors, all went on this trip through their church, The First Unitarian Church of Milwaukee.
“Our church has been going on this trip for ten, eleven, twelve years, and at this point, I think it’s kind of a tradition,” Rose said.
As they have been doing for over ten years, the students repaired houses, built wheelchair ramps and connected with the neighborhood around them.
“The first day, we painted the inside of a house. Then the next day, we helped build a ramp for a person who was in a wheelchair and put on siding for their house. The third day, we destroyed a house – that was my favorite kind of work,” Kosidowski said.
Kosidowski really enjoyed the physical work, but he and the other volunteers all spoke of the emotional impact in high regards.
“Every time we met the people we were benefiting, there was a great sense of gratification from them. The kids felt like they were part of something bigger,” said Russ Drewry, adult advisor.
Rose proved Drewry’s assumption to be correct.
“The trip was almost cleansing. It reminded me of who I am, on a community level and a personal level,” Rose said. “The town was pretty impoverished, and it really made me remember how lucky I am.”
Almost every site that the group visited impacted the students on a personal level.
“It just felt good helping people. You actually get to meet the person who it is for, instead of, say, giving a blind donation,” Kosidowski said.
The result of their work seemed to guarantee a heart wrenching emotion, but it was not always a blissful one.
“Sometimes it felt very personal and kind of sad. There was this one house we were going to tear down, and you could just tell that the family had to leave fast, for financial or whatever reasons. There were toothbrushes around, the walls were pink and blue and there were backpacks on the floor. We were destroying a house that people lived in, families stayed in,” Rose said.
However, the kids were all improving a town that really needed some help, and were happy to do so together. They experienced the grateful homeowners and melancholy back stories as a group, and they seemed to connect much more in the end.
“It was a service opportunity for the students and a growth opportunity for them,” Drewry said. “It’s a very moving trip.”
by Elena Cruz