‘25 Work Days for 25 Years’

VWC students participate in ‘The Alternative Break Experience with Habitat’ as part of the college’s 25 year celebration of partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
By Lily Kunda

This past spring break from Mar. 18 – Mar. 21, seven Virginia Wesleyan Students volunteered with Habitat for Humanity during the Alternative Break Experience with Habitat.

Though there was a $40 cost to participate, Virginia Wesleyan students Jon Snow, Sierra Brown, Mia Proctor, Alexandria Houston, Allesha Peterson, Tom Hogan and Marco DiSilva donated their time and helped with different projects like painting a house and working in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore thrift shop.

“The thing that attracted me to this organization was that it’s giving a person a home,” said Houston, a senior at VWC. “The family that is getting the home puts in work as well, so it’s kind of like you get what you give,” she went on to say.

Habitat for Humanity, often just referred to as Habitat, is a non-profit Christian housing ministry, that helps build affordable homes for people in need. Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads (Habitat SHR) was founded in 1988 to help the affordable housing crisis in the Hampton Roads area. With the help of then VWC Chaplain, Scott Davis, the VWC Chapter of Habitat began in 1989. The 2014-2015 school year marks 25 years of community partnership with Habitat SHR. To commemorate those 25 years, the VWC chapter is celebrating by committing to 25 service days over the school year.

Over the 25 years VWC has helped sponsor the building of two homes, has assisted in building three other homes in the area, has gone on trips to Miami to help with hurricane devastation efforts, built a playhouse in Norfolk Botanical Garden’s Enchanted Storybook Forest and has helped raise awareness to the global housing crisis.

According to Habitat for Humanity, worldwide approximately 827 million people live in urban slums- that number is expected to grow to 1 billion by 2020 and 48.5 million people in the US are living in poverty. The National Low Income Coalition says minimum wage is not keeping up with the rising cost of living and many workers struggle for decent housing.

The Habitat for Humanity website states that “Adequate housing is vitally important to the health of the world’s economies, communities and populations. Decent, stable housing provides more than just a roof over someone’s head it provides stability for families and children, a sense  of dignity and pride, health, physical safety and security and an increase of educational and job prospects.”

Director of the Community Services office Diane Hotaling said, “We have a pretty strong hunger/homelessness effort on campus if you look at the volunteer experiences that we provide, they tend to be in that area. Historically, we’ve been able to do well in those areas. But we could do better in helping students understand the root causes of that and try to help make a change. Affordable housing is a step away from homelessness. If you can’t find an affordable house where are you going to live?”

Hotaling has worked with Virginia Wesleyan for 30 years and was an agent in bringing the Habitat SHR Chapter to the college. In 1997, she made the switch from Publications Coordinator and Community Outreach Person to Director of Community Services and started to oversee the VWC chapter of Habitat and has been instrumental in the success of the chapter.

Hotaling hopes in future VWC can help sponsor another house. The approximate cost to fund a house is $60,000 and can take approximately two years to raise the funds. Fundraising for Habitat for Humanity is done through letter writing campaigns, donations and proceeds from the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores across the nation.

Each college chapter of Habitat has three main objectives: hands on services which is building the houses, raising awareness to the global housing issues and Habitat for Humanity and advocacy for affordable housing. The 25 work days is just a part of that bigger picture.

In the school year to follow, the VWC chapter of Habitat will be under new student leadership, Sierra Brown, a junior, who will serve as student president for the chapter and continue to work towards those goals.

“I want to continue Habitat on campus I want other people to have fun and I want to help the families get the houses. Currently I’m setting up a fundraiser with Chick-fil-A, setting up a Lego-build where you build a Lego house and I’m looking at planning up another alternative spring break,” Brown said.

There are still three work days available for student’s to volunteer for this year’s “25 days for 25 years” mission: April 18, May 2 and May 13. Sign-ups are available in the VWC community service office.