Building Homes, Building Hope: Learning Leadership Through Service
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AbstractStaff and volunteers of South County Habitat for Humanity (SCHH) work to build affordable homes for families that cannot purchase homes through traditional means. SCHH employs less than 10 individuals; construction and other work is done primarily by volunteers. Together, these volunteers dedicate well over 15,000 hours of their time each year to help build homes. This year, SCHH had approximately 5 houses in progress at one time, a large number for this particular area’s Habitat affiliate. SCHH volunteers and students from the URI Habitat for Humanity chapter must battle harsh weather conditions and limited building days to complete houses in a reasonable amount of time. In order to make more progress on one current build, the Home for a Hero home which is being built for a disabled veteran, South County Habitat for Humanity partnered with URI students who dedicated their spring break to building this home. The “Building Homes, Building Hope” Alternative Spring Break was new to URI this year. Two alternative spring break trips occur each year, however these have been in place for several years, and the leaders have received input and guidance from their predecessors. My co-leader and I did not have any previous spring break trips working directly with SCHH to base ours upon. As one of the two student leaders of this trip, I worked for months to organize and prepare to lead 10 students on a trip working primarily with South County Habitat for Humanity. My co-leader and I recruited 10 students, secured locations for stay and showering in Peacedale for the week, set up an additional day of service for our group, planned meals, and prepared reflection materials along with other steps of pre-trip planning and organization. Along with preparing for the week of service, I also decided to incorporate aspects of my learning from the Leadership minor to this trip. Not only did I incorporate my learnings to my own role as a leader of the trip, but also attempted to promote understanding of one’s own leadership skills and styles within the members of the group. Our week of service with South County Habitat for Humanity proved to be a difficult but exciting new experience for me. This project was the first in which I was almost entirely responsible for without the guidance of a predecessor. But the support of my co-leader and the SCHH staff and volunteers, my leadership skills and abilities, and the cohesion of our group made it possible for this trip to be a success. I have created a guideline for leaders to use to establish and plan new alternative spring break trips. The leaders for the Building Homes, Building Hope trip next year will utilize my guideline, but this outline highlights the important steps for individuals to take when planning any alternative spring break trip. The purpose for my work is to enable this trip and future trips to be successful and continue on, to bring awareness and the value of service to those in the URI community.