by Ellie Halfacre
On Monday, February 8th, thirteen students and three staff members from RFH left for Wilmington, Delaware on a 5-day trip dedicated to helping build a home for Habitat for Humanity. All of the students, ages 16 and up, worked with their chaperones, Mr. Lanzalotto, Mrs. Nill and Mrs. Bufis, in an inner city area vastly different from Rumson and Fair Haven. The group, Raise the Roof, stayed at a church called the Friend’s Meetinghouse. All of the students were new to the trip and were the only student group working on the project.
In preparation for the trip, participants had to raise $350 each. Students raised money through bake sales and pledges from family and friends. Raise the Roof also received a grant from the RFH Education Foundation for the cost of transportation. The group went as a part of the Collegiate Challenger branch of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat raises money through their volunteers with these fees. The recession may be hurting the cause because people hesitate before spending the money and they do not have many of the all-important corporate sponsors.
On the first day of the trip, students walked through the Habitat for Humanity site and learned more about the applicants for the houses and what circumstances led to the building of their current home. The applicants are usually single mothers with children that live in one-room apartments in bad neighborhoods. Habitat holds the mortgage, so a house ends up being less expensive than the apartment. In order to be eligible, applicants must clean up their finances and help build the houses in which they will later reside.
During the two workdays, the participants woke up at 6 am and ate breakfast. After leaving for the site at 7 am, they worked until 3 pm. Lunch provided to them at the site. They then visited the local YMCA for some well-deserved showers. Afterward students walked back to the Friend’s Meeting House and were split into two groups: one for cooking, and one for cleaning. Mr. Lanzalotto was the main chef, and there was a different menu every night. The evening was spent chatting with their chaperones about their day and having quiet time to themselves. Most were asleep by 11 pm, due to the early wake up call.
The students’ first workday was on Tuesday. They built the beams and the house’s frame. Due to a lack of transportation, these frames were built on the site.
“It was like putting a puzzle together,” commented Mrs. Bufis. Hammering in 2×4 planks of wood, they helped create the walls of the house a stranger would spend the rest of his or her life in.
Bufis started the ball rolling on this project during her 3rd year at RFH and had previously chaperoned trips at Fordham University. While on the trip, the students also viewed last year’s completed house. The trip in 2009 was the first Raise the Roof trip, and Mrs. Bufis hopes to continue the trip next school year.
“Having done this for so many years now, its interesting to see what the students have gained from it along the way,” said Mrs. Bufis. “When working with high school students, there are a lot of restrictions and getting off the ground was difficult. It involved learning a new set of rules.”
Snowstorms greatly affected the trip’s schedule, and was coined Operation Snowflake by the Habitat for Humanity staff. There was a 2-day state of emergency, so they could not work Wednesday or Thursday. The snow kept the students inside with little entertainment, for phones and I-pods were not available. Students had breakfast as a group, but lunch was supposed to be prepared by the snowed in Habitat for Humanity crew. This led to some last-minute meal creations. To occupy their free time, participants played cards, completed puzzles, danced and sang to the radio, read, and even found a TV with a working VCR that played Toy Story. On the second snow day, the YMCA was closed so the showers were taken at a hotel and was considered a “big outing.”
Overall, the trip helped people on both sides of the project. With this type of charity work, participants can see how their contributions affect the house.
“Compared to 2 hours in a soup kitchen, this type of hands-on volunteer work make people feel good because they can see the progress of their work,” commented Mrs. Bufis.
Mrs. Bufis plans to do the trip again next year, so if you want to participate contact her about your interest. “Hopefully this trip with Raise the Roof will go on for more years,” said Mrs. Bufis. You can help that happen.