Habitat for Humanity builds for New Orleans

by Lense Gebre-Mariam | 11/21/05 6:00am

Dartmouth's Habitat for Humanity is joining volunteers nationwide to build homes for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In a symbolic and productive trip to Washington, D.C., Zachary Smith '06, co-chair of Dartmouth's Habitat chapter, teamed up with members from across the country for "America Builds on the National Mall."

The week-long event, which culminated Friday, brought volunteers from every state and the District of Columbia to the nation's capital to construct the framework of houses that will be sent to New Orleans. Upon arrival, local Habitat chapters will create the house interiors before families move in.

"It was a real privilege that they were willing to recognize us and bring us there," Smith said.

Smith was one of two volunteers representing the state of New Hampshire, who were flown to the nation's capital for two days by Habitat for Humanity to build houses for five hours each day in groups of 10 to 12 people.

"It was a massive operation located beside the national monument," Smith said.

Employees of Freddie Mac, the event's major corporate sponsor, joined Habitat members for the week-long event.

Dartmouth's Habitat chapter is currently raising funds to begin construction of its third house in the Upper Valley region. The chapter, which consists of 15 to 20 core members, will work the entire year with the Tucker Foundation to raise approximately $100,000. Once the monetary goal is reached, volunteers will spend the next year constructing a house for a low-income family.

"We help specific families instead of the community as a whole," Smith said. "We spend more time touching families."

Currently, the chapter has raised $20,000, and it hopes to reintroduce Bike and Build, a transcontinental bike ride that raised $40,000 for the construction of a home in 2003. Smith said the assistance of the Tucker Foundation, along with fraternities, sororities and the Catholic Students Organization at Aquinas House has been pivotal for the organization's success.

Smith said that fundraising this year has been more difficult than during previous years as a result of harder economic times.

Habitat for Humanity was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller as a Christian service organization in 1976. Families are selected based on their need and willingness to work cooperatively with volunteers. The national organization has provided more than 200,000 homes for more than one million people.