One of the longest standing partners with NOAHH has been Tulane University. Even before the storms, student volunteers were part of NOAHH’s commitment to fighting poverty housing in New Orleans, but since Hurricane Katrina, they redoubled their commitment to the city. Since Tulane made community service a fundamental part of their programs, Tulane students have been on site weekend after weekend during the school year, giving back through home construction and repair projects and more.
At the heart of that support has been the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, joining NOAHH on site five times per semester. Their membership is at about 200, and about 20 to 30 people join them on site each visit, meaning that a significant portion of Tulane volunteers are with the campus chapter. NOAHH spoke with two of the campus chapter’s leaders, Olivia Purcell, a senior neuroscience major from Chicago, and Kirsten Hughes, a senior public health major from Topeka, about their experiences on site and the club’s activities.
“I think my favorite part about volunteering is actually seeing the progress and the difference a day’s work can make on a house,” said Purcell. “Last build we hammered together and put up all of the walls and it was amazing to see how much work we had gotten done. It is very rewarding.”
As with any volunteer group, friendships form quickly on site as students work together, often learning as they go. According to Hughes, this is one of the best parts of the club, especially noting how the experience can help them grow and change.
“When I first started building with Habitat at Tulane, I was always excited to get my hands dirty and see a lot of progress being made,” said Hughes. “Now, after spending time on the executive board, my favorite part is watching our new builders grow in their friendships and confidence. One build can change them so much!”
They also cited the power of working along side home owners on site:
“Once we were working all day just digging and moving sand. It was incredibly hard work and I’m sure everyone had blisters. We broke for lunch and everyone was beat. Right before we got back to work, the home owners’ little son appeared in a full batman costume with a toy hammer to ‘help’. That was all it took to get the group fired up again!”
Off site, the Tulane campus affiliate take part in various Tulane community action council events and show support and raise awareness for the issues around affordable housing in New Orleans. Soon, they will be working with HUG partners as well, helping NOAHH continue to expand our impact in the city. NOAHH thanks all of the students from Tulane Habitat for Humanity for their tremendous support!