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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Students give back on spring break trips

< spring break, sixty Carleton students participated in three Habitat for Humanity programs and a new Environmental and Social Justice Program. The three Habitat programs went to Waterloo, IA, Oklahoma City, OK, and Lexington, KY. Students spent a week building, caulking, landscaping, and painting houses. It was the twentieth year that Carleton students have participated in Habitat for Humanity. The new trip, organized by Dr. Kim Smith in coordination with the ACT Center, traveled to New Orleans, LA.

The trip to Oklahoma City, led by Sarah Prather ‘11 and Yonas Hailu ‘13, worked on houses that received Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED provides third-party verification that a building is constructed to save energy, be water efficient, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Alex Siemers ‘14 went on the trip and said of the experience, “The work itself was very rewarding. It was great to know that we were building houses for people, where they were going to live and spend large portions of their lives.”

Students in Lexington, Kentucky worked on the site’s “green home build” with students from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. When they arrived, the house had not been started. By the end of the week, it had four walls.

Teddy Gelderman ‘11 and Nicole Johnson ‘12 led the Waterloo trip. “We were on an old army base area and they had old bunkers that they were converting into houses for the low income families.” Some of the bunkers had to be destroyed because of severe damage. The house that Johnson worked on just had its skeleton left. To repair it, they replaced doors, reframed the studs and added insulation. “We got really good at putting on doors,” said Johnson. Students received housing and food from members of the Waterloo community. “We lived in the rectory of a church,” Gelderman said. “The Red Cross donated sleeping cots for us. And our lunch was provided by different community members every day.”

The New Orleans program, led by Nick Bellos ‘11 and Kristine Nachbor ‘12, focused on Environmental and Social Justice, a grassroots movement that aims to empower local inhabitants to fight institutionalized racism. It is based off the idea that minorities and lower income families tend to live in unsafe neighborhoods. “Environmental Justice advocates argue that people have basic rights,” said Nachbor. “No one should live in a community where there are toxic waste plants in their back yard, polluting their air.”

The students in New Orleans worked with organizations such as the Center of Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. One of the projects removed mortar from old bricks, which would in turn allow homeowners to reuse them to rebuild their houses. Through Project Green Light, students went to local homes to change standard light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs that reduce carbon dioxide omissions and save homeowners money on electrical bills.

Chris Remley, ACT Coordinator for the Spring Break Trips, said of the New Orleans program, “We were trying to expand it so it wasn’t just Habitat focused. We wanted to get a broader range of issues that we would be working with for the spring break trips.” In the future, the ACT Center would like to continue expanding its Spring Break Trips to include issues such as terminal illness, education and environmental issues.

 “What we really hope that students will gain is that sense of the importance of volunteering and giving back to people,” said Remley. “Hopefully, they see the reciprocity with it, in that they may be helping someone but that person that they’re helping can give back to them as well in different ways.”

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