Alums assist local community
Two recent Dartmouth graduates are literally putting a roof over people's heads.
After graduation, Danra Kazenski '99 and Nancy Bloomfield '99 both knew they wanted to help lower income Americans build and repair their own homes.
Both currently work for the Corps of Volunteers Effecting Repair, or COVER -- a non-profit home repair program.
"Basically you're on call 24-7," Kazenski said. "I guess I'm like a doctor with a hammer."
Kazenski receives a monthly stipend, and her income is currently set near the poverty level. This way she can relate more to the people she is helping, she said.
"You definitely become creative," Kazenski said.
Since its initiation in February 1998, COVER has organized over 100 volunteers from the College and surrounding community who have donated more than 3,500 hours addressing urgent repair needs of the Upper Valley.
"Most of the people that we help are either elderly or disabled," Kazenski said. "We help those who can't afford to do the projects themselves."
Kazenski and Bloomfield both cited one of this fall's projects as the most memorable.
With volunteers from the Dartmouth Woodcrew, Operation Insulation, and other organizations, the group tackled a mobile home in Norwich, N.H. The home was without electricity, heat and running water.
Over the course of a month, the volunteers helped the family install a composting toilet and an awning over the porch. They also added nine windows to the home including a large bay window.
"Their situation was an urgent one," Bloomfield said. "But their vision of what they wanted the project to be was more than just buttoning up. When we were done, [the house] was beautiful."
Kazenski said the kids would work with them until dusk and that the volunteers had a potluck dinner with the family to celebrate the project's completion.
Kazenski said she works a "good amount of hours" and that the physical activity can really wear her down by the end of the weekend of projects.
"But when you come home really sore, you know you've gotten something done," she said.
As a sociology major, Bloomfield said that her service experience through Operation Insulation and Tucker enabled her to really enjoy her classes.
"We read a lot about poverty and power imbalances and U.S. social welfare policy," she said, "and for me it was really important to have personal experiences to draw from when I was reading those books and writing those papers."
For her off-term, Bloomfield worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary school in Baltimore, Md. She also tutored three children in reading.
She said the experience taught her a lot about personal relationships.
"My main job was to show these three kids that I had confidence in them," she said.
She brought that back to school with her, she said, and she really began focusing on her work with OI.
Kazenski was an environmental biology major as an undergraduate. Along with her extensive involvement with OI, she was also a member of the women's volleyball team.
"That's another reason why I'm back," said Kazenski, who had just finished a workout with the men's team. "I'm leading a double life right now between the two things that are really important to me here."
After her year with COVER is over, Kazenski said she hopes to do another year of AmeriCorps, but most likely not in Hanover.
"I want to do something with the environment and I want to do something with kids," she said.
Kazenski also worked at an Environmental Education Daycamp in Long Island this summer.
Bloomfield, however, plans to come back for at least one more year.
"There's nothing more wonderful than being able to work with three close friends doing something you love," Bloomfield said.