Office of Public Affairs
(315) 312-2265
CONTACT: Christy Huynh, 312-5360
April 30, 2003
OSWEGO -- While many college students headed south for recent spring break activities, some SUNY Oswego students headed that direction not to soak up the sun on beaches, but to support a Habitat for Humanity project in Robbins, Tenn.
Seven members of Oswego's campus community participated in the Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break project from March 23 to 29 to build a home and renovate a building into a homeless shelter.
The Center for Service Learning and Community Service at Oswego and the college's new Habitat for Humanity chapter coordinated local participation. This is the second year SUNY Oswego students have joined other colleges in this effort, said Christy Huynh, coordinator of the center, who joined six students for the trip.
"I have found that there is much interest from many students about the trip and eagerness to go," she said. "One of our goals is to spread the word and let students know about the trip and hopefully send out multiple trips next year."
Cathy Ortiz, a junior public justice major, said she underestimated the impact the experience would have on her. "I left for Tennessee not knowing what to expect, but when I arrived on Monday, I do not think I could have imagined anything like it," she said.
"I worked on a homeless shelter repainting, cleaning and tiling floors," Ortiz explained. "The homeless shelter is going to be used to house people who lost their home in fires or natural disasters."
Ortiz said she had never seen a place with such need, yet the people in the community were "happy and content with their life," she said. "It was a good feeling knowing that not everyone focuses on material things. It really made me believe that it's not what a person has, but it is what they do with what they have that matters."
Michael Huynh, a graduate student at Oswego who made the spring break trip both years, said that everyone involved receives something from the experience -- those being helped and the volunteers.
"The few nails you pound in and walls you paint are very miniscule to what you receive in return," he explained. "The people you meet -- other students, future homeowners, habitat staff and volunteers -- are wonderful, hospitable and share with you an indescribable joy that is contagious."
Ortiz agreed that there were many intangibles she gained from the trip. "The week was full of rewarding and beneficial experiences, building friendships and work," she said. "I have always wanted to help the homeless, and I was blessed with an opportunity to do so. I plan to continue helping in any way that I can."
Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that has built nearly 130,000 houses in more than 80 countries including some 45,000 homes across the United States. The organization estimates it shelters 625,000 people in around 3,000 communities worldwide.
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