Volunteers helped build affordable housing for a family in need.
During J-term 2012, Randolph-Macon
College students built a house—and some relationships, too.
Students enrolled in Sociology Professor Beth
Gill’s course, Human Rights in the Global Village, spent two weeks in El Salvador
building affordable housing for a family in need. The journey, arranged in conjunction
with the Habitat for Humanity Global Village Program, immersed participants in the
J-term in El Salvador for a slideshow of photos from the trip.
Psychology major Devon Maust ’12,
who blogged during the
trip, was deeply affected by the experience.
“I expected to help build a house, but I never imagined that I would build relationships,”
wrote Maust. “From the first day, the community shared with us parts of the Salvadorian
culture that tourists don’t get to see. In two weeks we built a ‘family’ from two
different cultures with many differences, but also with many similarities. Together
we created a story that will always be a part of me.”
Maust and her classmates—Mark Josey ’12, Elizabeth Luminoso
’13, Elanya Chin ’13, Andrea West ’14,
Mary Margaret Petersen ’13, and Cara DeCesare ’13—were
joined by Kathleen Chapman ’10, Professor Gill, and Christina Brown
Cozart, associate director of residence life
“Those days in El Salvador reminded me of the importance of community and love,”
says Cozart. “We will never forget the masons who taught us and the homeowners who
welcomed us into their country and into their hearts.”
Sociology Professor Reber Dunkel, the coordinator of Students Engaged in Responsible
Volunteer Experiences (SERVE), says the trip was
“an extraordinary opportunity for students to donate their time and skills to others.
With nails, hammers—and a lot of heart—our students learned not only practical construction
skills and about human rights, but also helped improve the living conditions in
an impoverished Central American country that went through a violent, deadly civil
war between 1980 and 1992. They connected to local people in a way that tourists
Travelers also visited a local school, traveled throughout the country and toured
a museum dedicated to El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. Elanya Chin ’13, who blogged
during the trip, packed her bags full of memories for the return trip home:
“What I will remember and hold in my heart: the people, the places, the food, the
culture, the colors, the community, and the generosity of El Salvador,” wrote Chin.
“From now on, I’m going to let what I do speak louder and more effectively than
my messy words, which grasp at unexplainable feelings and emotions.”
It was Gill’s first time in El Salvador.
“This experience afforded each of us the opportunity to abandon the familiar, which
no longer made sense, and experience moments of selflessness and complete openness,”
says Gill, the Charles J. Potts Professor of Social Science. “In helping to build
a home, we confronted life face- to-face through the daily routines of the Habitat
family members, the stories of civil war survivors, memorials to the dead, and the
suffering of the poor. These moments offered the opportunity to open our minds to
the interconnectedness and preciousness of life. I was impressed by our students’
willingness, fueled by Christina’s enthusiasm and encouragement, to ‘poke holes
in the clouds’ of their lives, pause and fearlessly learn more about themselves
and others by opening up to the joys, delights and sorrows of the Salvadorian people.
We learned about family, suffering, laughter and, of course, ourselves. The experience
R-MC has a tradition of service-learning J-term trips. In 2006, students traveled
to New Orleans to help repair houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, R-MC
Chaplain Darrell Headrick and Religious Studies
Professor Ira Andrews traveled with 30 students to Espiritu Santo Brazil, where
they helped finish construction and paint a dormitory at a United Methodist youth
camp. In addition, Headrick and Andrews have made several trips to Guatemala, where
they and their students built stoves and worked on reforestation.
The R-MC Habitat of Humanity Chapter
will travel in March to Albany, Georgia for their annual Spring Break Trip to build
with the Flint River Habitat for Humanity Affiliate. Currently, the Chapter is busy
fundraising and preparing for Act, Speak, Build Week and
Macon a Difference Day, both of which will take place on Saturday, April