Spring Break? Spring Build! With Habitat For Humanity
Just because your friends are going to Florida for Spring Break doesn’t mean you have to (at least not every year!). Sure, it could be fun to catch some rays and party, but what about the downside? No sleep, foul-smelling taxis, not to mention the endless protests of your parents, grandparents and Great Aunt Martha.
Why not try something different, something that will not only help your self-esteem and resume, but also your conscience? Habitat for Humanity offers a fun, challenging and life-changing alternative (for both you AND the family you help!) to the traditional Mardi Gras atmosphere of Spring Break.
How does it work?
Although similar programs are offered to high schoolers, the main Spring Break program is called Collegiate Challenge. The trip gives you and your friends a chance to travel to the state of your choice and spend a week working on a home for someone in need. You don’t need any experience – you’ll get basic carpentry and construction training – and because you’ll be working side by side with the future homeowners, it’s hardly an abstract concept.
The Collegiate Challenge program started in 1989 and is now one of the biggest year-round alternative Spring Break programs in the United States. You have to be at least 16 years old and need a minimum of four friends to sign up with you, but if your friends are as community-minded as you are, they’ll probably think it’s a very cool idea. And while groups of five or more require at least one adult, it doesn’t have to be your parent. (In fact, they only have to be 21 so it could be your favorite teacher, youth group counselor or that cutie that works for your dad’s company!)
What’s the week like?
You’ll arrive at your host affiliate on a Sunday and start work the next day around 8 a.m. Most days end at 5 p.m., at which time you’ll either have a planned dinner or activity with the Habitat partner family or you’ll be able to do what you like. (See? You can STILL do some partying!) The week ends on Friday or Saturday.
How much does it cost?
There’s something called an “affiliate contribution,” in which each person pays the hosting sponsor anywhere from $10 to $100 for the week. These fees cover the cost of building materials and, in rare cases, accommodations. There’s also a $15 per-person fee paid to Habitat that covers medical insurance and program costs. You’ll be responsible for all of your own transportation arrangements, as well as food for the week. (You may have the option to cook your own meals so you don’t have to eat at restaurants all week.) In most cases, you don’t have to worry about sleeping accommodations. Collegiate Challenge provides a free place for you to sleep, shower and cook meals, but you’ll probably need a sleeping bag.
Why should I do it?
Still not convinced the program is right for you? Just think about all the things you’ll gain: friends, leadership skills, construction experience, the satisfaction of providing decent, affordable housing for a family and bragging rights that you’re making a difference in the world!
If you’re interested in traveling outside the U.S., there is also an international program. Whichever you choose, check out http://www.habitat.org to learn more.