(Editor's note: Samuel Clement, a 2010 graduate of Catholic Central High School in Troy, wrote about a June trip to rural Georgia to build a home for Habitat for Humanity.)
Fourteen volunteers and I went on a 10-day trip to Georgia. We were all city folk from a few different cities in New York State: Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca.
In 2008, my brother and I had gone on a similar trip to Crisp County with our high school. Having returned from that trip with new friends, a strong sense of volunteerism and tons of memories, I could hardly recount what had happened when my friends and family from home asked about the trip - so I decided rather than tell them, I would show them.
In 2010, I began planning the same trip, asking for help from my teachers at CCHS who planned the 2008 trip. The next step was to contact Habitat for Humanity International and set up a volunteer week on a construction site. With the help of community members and the graciousness of members from our parishes [including Mater Christi Church in Albany], we had secured the funds to make the trip a possibility.
[After we arrived in Cordele, Ga.], we drove 40 minutes to the neighboring town of Americus. Since Cordele lost its funding for Habitat for Humanity the previous year, we would have to make the trip to Americus each day.
We arrived at the Habitat for Humanity warehouse, packed up the materials and drove an additional 20 minutes to the construction site. The house we were building was for a young woman and her disabled mother.
On the first day, the house was just a frame with plywood walls on a lot in the middle of the country. By the end of the week, we all knew how to install siding, vinyl, soffit and shingles. We had built a shed from scratch and painted both the house and the shed. Each day, we worked from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m., because the heat was upwards of 100 degrees.
It was a truly a team-building and bonding experience. The work was extremely hard, but the thought of helping out those in need got us through each day. We also had the pleasure of swimmming in the lake after work each day.
By the final Sunday, we had accomplished so much. We had finished the exterior of the house, a task our site supervisor hadn't even expected. Those of us who had never met before became close friends.
We were warmly welcomed into our host community and our stay was made comfortable by some good Southern hospitality. Our hosts were happier than ever to have us, and we all made new friends and memories in the process. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.