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Trading fun in the sun for a hammer and nails

Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 12:47 pm

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Alternative Spring Break volunteers from Boston College help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Hanover.

Alternative Spring Break volunteers from Boston College help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Hanover.

For spring break, most college students choose to travel to a paradise island or just somewhere with a beach and warm temperatures.

Boston College student, Marcus Bauer recently opted out of the usual collegiate vacation and joined 13 other Bostonians to help Habitat for Humanity build a home for a Hanover family in need of affordable housing.

The house will be a part of Hanover Habitat’s first neighborhood project called Bailey Woods on Ashcake Road near its intersection with Lewistown Road.

Marcus Bauer nails down the subfloor at a Habitat house.

Marcus Bauer nails down the subfloor at a Habitat house.

“It’s a great thing to be able to come down here, help out for a week and meet these great people,” Bauer said.

Bauer and his peers are helping the neighborhood plan become a reality with Collegiate Challenge, which is Habitat for Humanity’s national alternative spring break program. Students from Duke University and Sarah-Lawrence College will also contribute to the construction.

This is the fourth time Bauer has participated in this program and it’s his second year as a team leader. In that role, Bauer is responsible for organizing the group to effectively build the home while leading discussions and reflections on social justice issues in the world. More often than not, Bauer said volunteers don’t already know each other. As a result, the program is a bonding experience.

“It’s been fun because we’ve gelled as a group and gotten to get out and meet the community,” he said.

This spring break, Bauer said his friends went off to Pacana for a nice, fun vacation, but for him there’s something special that keeps him taking these trips each year.

“It’s so rewarding to come out here and hopefully make a difference,” he said. “There’s just something great about doing that.”

Most of the students who volunteer with Habitat for Humanity do not have previous experience building homes. Tim Bowring, executive director of Hanover Habitat, said that although the volunteers’ experience and knowledge of building varies, they all know the basics of construction and don’t mind getting a little dirty by the end of a trip.

“I think more importantly what everybody learns about is community,” he said.

He added that the reason the organization can build so many homes and even this new neighborhood is because of students like the ones from Boston College and volunteers.

“It is sort of a peculiarity in our culture that people are not just willing to donate money but also time,” Bowring said.

After Bowring built one of his very first homes with Habitat for Humanity, he said he had a construction expert check the house to make sure it was safe and stable because a group of 20 year olds constructed it.

“Not only did he say [the house] wouldn’t fall down, he said it’s as well built as any house you can find anywhere,” Bowring said.

Hanover has participated in this program for at least the past five or six years. Each year several groups of college students travel to the area and assist in building a home for a family in need.

“It’s an incredible thing that a group of kids from Boston can get in a van and come down here, do something most of them have never done before and do it really well — that says a lot about my staff, their patience and ability to train people,” Bowring said.

Bauer’s experience with this build has been especially different than his past four trips. He said this group has worked faster than any other trip he has been on. In the first day and a half, the students already built four walls.

The students arrived on the afternoon of March 9 and were welcomed with a snowstorm the next day and worked in the cold weather. They started building before they met the family who will live in the house. Bauer said meeting each family that they’re helping is an experience in itself.

“It’s so awesome to be able to talk with them and really know that you’re making an impact and putting a face to the service that you’re doing,” he said.