The Spring Break That Changed Me

When most college students think of spring break, most picture beaches in Florida, a week of Netflix and your bed, or the occasional lucky person who gets to go to Europe. A rural town in the middle of North Carolina does not typically come to mind. I certainly would not have pictured myself in Pittsboro, NC last spring break or even a few months ago, but I will forever be thankful for the experience I had there.

A few weeks ago, I decided I would spend my spring break going on an Alternative Spring Break Challenge (ABC) trip. ABC trips can be focused on working with Habitat for Humanity, trail maintenance, or inner-city youth. I listed trips from each of these three categories in my preferences and got placed on a Habitat for Humanity trip in Pittsboro, North Carolina. I had no experience with building houses, so I was both nervous and excited to give it a try.

For four days, I had the opportunity to work with eight other girls from UNH and Habitat for Humanity volunteers from the Chatham County organization in North Carolina working on two Habitat houses. For the first three days, we worked on a house that was almost done. We got to put up and take down scaffolding, paint, construct a back porch, and work on flooring. On the last day, we had the opportunity to help students from the University of Virginia (UVA) put the terraces for the roof on the house they had been working on.

It was incredible to get to work with people who were so passionate about what they were doing. Both the students from UNH and the students from UVA that I met genuinely cared about helping others so much that they were willing to pay for a spring break trip that allowed them to do just that. They maintained positive attitudes towards the work they were doing, and it was so refreshing to make connections with people who also prioritized helping those in need.

The regular Habitat for Humanity volunteers in Chatham were also inspiring. Most were retired and some have been choosing to spend their time working for the non-profit for as long as ten years. The regular volunteers worked patiently with us, from teaching us about how Habitat for Humanity works to showing us how to use power tools.

One of my favorite parts of the time I spent with the regular volunteers was when they told us stories about the people who had moved into the Habitat homes. One man was a chef at a pizza place before a Habitat home was build for him and his family. With the strong foundation of a home built by Habitat volunteers, he eventually was able to own his own pizza shop. Recently, he just recommended one of his chefs for a Habitat home.

At one point, the mother living in the house that was almost finished being built came to the work site. She spoke little English but watched each of us work, smiling and taking pictures. It was evident that she was so happy and grateful towards us, and it was incredible to think that the other volunteers and I were the reason she felt this way. When she was leaving, she gave each of us a hug and said, “God bless you all.” This was the moment when I truly realized what we were doing mattered.