Students Give Back Over Break

Students Give Back Over Break

Jess Blank

While some Colgate students returned home over winter break to relax, spend time with family and catch up on some quality Facebook stalking, other students dedicated their breaks to helping the lives of others. Colgate sponsored three different trips over winter break for students to volunteer in the Dominican Republic, North Carolina and Texas.

Colgate students who traveled to Jefferson County, Texas worked with Habitat for Humanity International and used their time to rebuild a house for a family who was affected by Hurricane Ike. Although Ike hit Texas over a year ago, many houses and stores are still leveled and surrounded by debris. Students were able to take a day trip to Galveston, Texas to see the damage firsthand.

“We wanted to see the destruction instead of simply hearing about it. It added a greater significance to our volunteerism,” sophomore Benae Beamon said.

“When we arrived on the first day, there was only the foundation of the house intact, so it was exciting to watch our progress over the week,” Director of the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) Ingrid Hale said. “It was hard work, but very rewarding and very much a hands-on and bonding experience for everyone involved.”

People from all over the country came to help out for Habitat and join the efforts of the Colgate students. This included an older couple from Minnesota.

“The husband, Roger, was hilarious,” senior Mari Jones said. “He was missing some of his thumb but was trusted with the chop saw anyway. Another man working on the house with us demonstrated the dance moves that he does ‘in the club’ whenever his favorite songs would play on the radio.”

Humans were not the only ones volunteering their time, though.

“There was a dog named Hank who kept coming to the work site, so we fed him leftover sandwiches and pickles,” Jones said. “I was his best friend, which was why he kept coming back each day. All the power tools and sunshine were great, but knowing that a family was going to have a home that can withstand a hurricane is more exciting than using a .22 caliber rifle to shoot nails into concrete, [an experience] which was pretty thrilling.”

Another group of Colgate students went to Rocky Mount, North Carolina to work with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for underprivileged families. In Rocky Mount, a city of 60,000 people located near the Appalachian Mountains, Habitat for Humanity has built over 45 homes, two of which Colgate students helped build over winter break.

“During the first two days, we spent time removing furniture from an old motel that went out of business,” COVE advisor Jason Beck said. The furniture was then resold by Habitat.

“The money raised from selling the furniture of that one hotel was enough to pay for the necessary materials to supply an entire house,” junior Abby Byrne said.

During the rest of the trip, Colgate students helped build two houses.

“Half of the group dry-walled the inside of one house. The other half of us actually put up the exterior and interior walls of another house. When we got to the house, it was only a slab of cement. During the course of our stay, it was amazing to see the seemingly meaningless slab transform into an actual house,” first-year Erin Nash said.

Students who traveled to Neyba, Dominican Republic dedicated their time to educating teens about healthy lifestyles through sports, arts and theater. While one group of students bonded with local children by painting anti-drug murals together, the other group trained local teens to lead anti-drug and alcohol workshops for their communities to promote teen health.

“When asked about the negative effects of marijuana, one teen thought that the drug makes a person ‘want to kill, to see blood and guts in their teeth,'” senior Pat Barnoski said. “We were disheartened to see how uneducated these teens were about drugs.”

With the help of Colgate students, the teens became educated about the dangers of drugs. Colgate students watched proudly as the newly-trained teens led workshops in various schools.

“Now, the teens are educated about the negative effects of drug use and can use their training to continue the education efforts within their communities after we leave,” sophomore Kendra Opatovsky said.

Colgate students also spent time in the schools playing with the children.

“In addition to the anti-drug message we launched in Neyba, we also experienced a cultural exchange and established a relationship with the community, paving the road for future service projects in the Dominican Republic,” Opatovsky said.

This spring, Colgate will be returning to the Dominican Republic to continue its community service efforts. In addition to a trip to the Dominican Republic, Colgate is sponsoring two other alternative spring breaks to North Carolina and New Orleans.