March 26, 2018
By Kana Prasertchoang
Habitat for Humanity student volunteers at a build site.Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that establishes housing for individuals and families in need of a safe, affordable place to call home. Homeowners play an active role in this journey to a better future, investing "sweat equity" by working alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers to build their home, taking homeownership classes and volunteering through the organization in other ways. Homeowners must also be willing and able to pay an affordable mortgage with a very low interest rate (less than 1%) once the house is complete. These mortgage payments are cycled back into the community to help build additional Habitat houses.
"Habitat for Humanity allows them to get to that position where they can become owners of their own house, have affordable housing and have the means to pay it back," explains Benjamin Heo, the vice president of Binghamton University's Habitat for Humanity.
The Binghamton University chapter helps coordinate volunteers to build houses alongside the Broome County Habitat for Humanity chapter (which also serves neighboring Tioga County). The students usually provide volunteers for Saturday builds, and helped finish two houses in Johnson City last summer.
The student group also hosts events to fundraise for the local chapter and spread awareness about its mission. One of their most popular fundraising events is the plant sale they hold every semester. Students can purchase various plants, including succulents, cacti and flowers, to take care of and brighten their room. A portion of the proceeds goes to supporting the local Habitat chapter.
Lindsey Boody, Anna Shapiro and Katja Anuth of Phi Delta Epsilon, build a haunted house themed cardboard home during at the 2nd annual Shack-A-Thon, which raised funds and awareness for Habitat for Humanity, Monday, Oct 19, 2015.
Shack-A-Thon is another fun, innovative fundraising event the club hosts in the fall semester by the University spine. They invite various student groups, such as Greek organizations and Residential Life, to come build a shack out of cardboard. Then the organizations, passersby and the general public vote on who built the best one. Groups can get extra votes by donating money to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter.
"People come [to the events] and they have fun," says Heo. "Since we have a lot of repeat organizations for Shack-A-Thon, they think, 'Hey, that was fun, we built a cardboard shack in the middle of campus. We know who Habitat is - we like them. So we definitely have a sizable presence in the student body with our listserv, but it's also good visually to be tied to it and for us to have relationships with student organizations."
The international Habitat for Humanity organization also organizes an annual week-long spring break trip, where students from various high school and college Habitat chapters can travel to a build site hosted by a local Habitat for Humanity organization. Binghamton University's chapter takes about 20 students for the trip, which is usually a mix of e-board and general body members. This semester, they traveled to Durham, N.C.
"It's a lot of traveling, and it's a good way for students to bond, get to know each other," says Heo. "People tend to get very close after the end of the trip because we drive there. It's nice. It's a different experience from what we do throughout the course of the regular year."
Students are assigned various tasks to help complete the house, depending on what stage of building the house is in at the time, and there is a safety orientation for those who are not familiar with the process or have not volunteered before.
"Completing a house takes a while," explains Heo. "One of the things with Habitat that's exciting is you don't necessarily know what you're going to be doing until you get there. I went on one [trip] during my freshman year where we were clearing the foundation. So it was just a plot of land with the cinderblocks of the basement. Then two years ago we went to Myrtle Beach, and all the framing was done, and the roof was up. We were finishing it and covering it with plywood."
Heo says the club aims to maintain their success in the coming years. "We want to continue performing at this level, being able to provide support to Broome County and [engaging] with the students and the campus community, [while] innovating along the way."
Photos: (Top) Habitat for Humanity's annual plant sale fundraiser. Middle (Benjamin Heo and other members of the Habitat for Humanity student group at a build site in Myrtle Beach in 2016. (Bottom) Lindsey Boody, Anna Shapiro and Katja Anuth of Phi Delta Epsilon build a haunted-house-themed cardboard home during the 2015 Shack-A-Thon.