"Sneakers do not survive"

By Caroline Mahony, Syracuse University sophomore and Habitat for Humanity volunteer

Here are the top three things I learned while road tripping from Syracuse University to Louisiana to volunteer with Habitat St. Tammany West.

1. Shrek makes people angry.

After driving from New York to Tennessee, our chapter went haywire on charades. We focused on movie titles, and a teammate became enraged as the crowd confused his Shrek impression for Godzilla. To make up for it, I was ruthless with the movie titles I selected for our competitors. When you’re running on Nutri-Grain bars and your back is stiff from sleeping on the floor of a classroom, the prospect of tripping someone up over Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Shawshank Redemption is really invigorating, trust me.

2. Sneakers do not survive.

As our site leader John explained to me, red clay is used as a foundation because it becomes very compact and stable. However, when clay comes in contact with rain, as it did during my building time, it becomes muddy, slippery and inches deep. Boots are the safest bet when building. After every workday, my sneakers looked like a ball of red Play-doh.

3. Screwdrivers will flip around like a fish out of water if you don’t hold them securely.

After spending hours working on a porch, I was extremely proud of myself. It was amazing to see that I had actually created something that looked authentic. In order to finalize the railing, I worked with a fellow builder to measure, cut, level and screw the posts into place. After a while, we definitely learned how to tame mechanical tools like professionals.

The homeowner we built with was Greg, a Vietnam veteran who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a 15 percent survival rate. After a surgery, however, he was told the cancer had miraculously vanished. All Habitat homeowners perform sweat equity, building for a set amount of hours on homes in order to receive their own. Greg has surpassed his required amount of hours by a long shot. He now believes in being the miracle for others.