Since the Collegiate Challenge program began in the late 1980s, more than 260,000 students have committed to building safe and affordable homes across the United States. Collegiate Challenge offers student volunteers a unique learning experience where they learn not only construction skills, but also about the importance of housing. Unfortunately, this program is currently on hiatus due to the corona virus, but we look forward to having Collegiate Challenge students back on our construction sites soon!
With Spring Break right around the corner, Collegiate Challenge Alumni, Adithya shared his experiences volunteering with Habitat Lake-Sumter. Adithya Ramaswami is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University majoring in Aerospace Engineering and will be graduating in May 2023. It was through the university’s Buck-I-SERV program that he first learned about Habitat for Humanity and was then able to volunteer for Habitat Lake-Sumter. The opportunity to broaden his understanding of the challenges people face and give back to the community in a meaningful way, all contributed to Adithya’s decision to participate. Adithya was a trip leader for two trips, one in the Winter of 2019 and again in the Spring of 2020
During the first trip his team worked on the construction and framing of a new home and enjoyed the experience so much that he returned the following year to work in the ReStore, paint a house nearing completion and put in fencing on a newly acquired property. Not only did he learn new construction skills and the use of power tools but seeing the progress at the end of each day and knowing that he was making a difference in the lives of others was extremely rewarding. Adithya was impressed by the helpfulness, supportiveness, and patience of the staff, in teaching the skills needed to be successful. “It was clear,” Adithya said “that they loved the work they do and are passionate about Habitat’s mission and goals. It was truly inspiring.”
The students stayed at the Habitat Lake-Sumter service facility in Eustis where the accommodations, per Adithya, “were exceptional”. The kitchen provided the chance to bring in food to cook as an option to eating out. There were also opportunities to explore central Florida after volunteer hours were over. Disney Springs, the beach, kayaking, volleyball and watching a Space X launch were some of the activities that they enjoyed. The Director of Volunteer Services, Carlos Beron, was incredibly helpful and resourceful in making sure the team had a successful and enjoyable week.
The opportunity to understand the issues around affordable and decent housing helped Adithya to build stronger and deeper connections within the community. Volunteering helped him to understand the challenges our communities face and enabled him to help address them and make a positive difference. It was a personal journey of self-growth. As Adithya said, “Volunteering can help start a conversation around social justice and build a bridge of kindness and create an opportunity to make a positive impact. The work you do is meaningful if you push yourself to connect with what you are doing. You gain a sense of responsibility to continue in that civic engagement and community service throughout the rest of your life.”
By Kevin Vogt – Volunteer Writer