Students to build homes, make connections

Student Sarah Small to chronicle group's trip on university's Instagram account

Small (right) and other members of Habitat for Humanity’s Washington University chapter traveled to Alabama last spring break to build affordable housing. This year, the chapter will go to Tucker, Ga.

Washington University in St. Louis junior Sarah Small can’t wire a socket or install a toilet. But this spring break, Small and 15 other members of the university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter will help build a home in Tucker, Ga.

“I can do a lot of the simple things that need to get done and take a lot of time,” said Small, who is studying global health and environment in Arts & Sciences.  “That frees up the other volunteers who are very well-trained to do other things. Habitat makes it so everyone can volunteer and contribute.”

The trip is one of four spring break service trips organized by Washington University student groups. The Association of Latin American Students is headed to San Juan, Texas; Students Today, Leaders Forever will visit Washington, D.C., and the Danforth Scholars will remain in St. Louis during the break, which begins this weekend. 

On Saturday, March 17, Small will share her story on Washington University’s Instagram account (@wustl_officialthrough photos and videos from her trip. 

Small does not know exactly what her team will be asked to do, but she’s ready to work. On past volunteer trips, Small has done everything from lifting walls to building a deck to painting. She especially has enjoyed working side by side with a home’s future owners and looks forward to the group’s evening conversations.

“I run these discussions in the evenings about what community engagement means and why it’s important,” Small said. “Effective service is not doing something and then leaving.”

For the university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, being involved includes hosting a pre-orientation program, tutoring kids who live in Habitat homes, working at donation warehouses and hosting on-campus fundraisers. Small participated in the Habitat for Humanity pre-orientation as a first-year student and now serves as the program’s leader. 

“It was very easy for me to get involved, so it’s sort of like ‘why not?’” Small said. “It’s helped me learn about St. Louis, and then, when I go on trips, it helps me learn about how Habitat works in other places. Now that I’ve been involved in the group, I’ve learned so much more about the importance of safe, affordable housing and building community.”

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