Athens, OH 31 March 2019 –
During Spring Break, I had the chance to go down to Florida with Theta Tau, my coed professional engineering fraternity, to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. We were able to stay at the United Methodist Church in Flagler Beach, which was only 3 blocks away from the Atlantic and 20 minutes away from the work site where we volunteered for 4 days.
My friend and little in the fraternity, Sam (ISE senior), and I started our trip down to Florida on the Friday before break. Firstly, we drove 8 hours to Cleveland, Tennessee, to stay the night with Sam’s family and break up the road trip to Florida. The next day, we drove another 6 hours to Savannah, Georgia, where we found a hotel. Here I saw the first palm trees of our trip!
For some reason, I get extremely excited about palm trees. These trees are the ultimate sign of vacation in my view. The next day, we had time to spend a couple of hours exploring the city of Savannah! This city had a lot of historical architecture at the riverbank and some crazy structures to visit.
Later that afternoon, we drove to Flagler Beach to meet our other brothers from 6 different chapters around the nation: Texas, Virginia (2x), Rhode Island, Michigan, and Ohio. We had dinner and found out that most of the volunteers were returners from previous years! They were extremely friendly and welcoming towards us, the newbies. After a free dinner from the church and Habitat, we spent some time bonding at the beach.
For the next four days, we woke up at 6:30 am to leave the church by 7:30 am. Habitat for Humanity expected us to be on the site by 8:00 am to start the day with a dedication circle. Throughout the day, we performed different tasks such as roofing or siding.
I joined the siding group for most of the days, so I was pounding nails in the outside of the house to finish the outdoor walls. I also spent a day or two on hurricane straps. These could be a real pain at times because both sides of a roof frame had to be nailed with 5-6 nails to the strap and wall so the wind could not blow underneath the roof. The angle of nailing and the fact that we had to nail them through metal while standing on a ladder didn’t make the job much easier!
By the end of the day, we had a lot of fun and it was extremely rewarding work! On our last day, we finished almost the entire roof and the outdoor walls. We also got to dedicate another, finished house to a family which was a great experience. It was awesome to see how a finished house would look like!
Next year, I hope to come back to volunteer again as it precisely describes what I would like to do after graduation: combining civil engineering with natural hazard mitigation and humanity work in developing communities.