By Katie Caro, Learn and Build Experience alumna and Emerson College theater studies major
My Habitat for Humanity story begins in July 2011 at the Tampa International Airport, where I was surrounded by 20 strangers who had all signed up for the Learn and Build Experience.
I did not know that the next two weeks would change my life. I was exposed to the poverty that exists in the most unexpected places. I was immersed in the world of Habitat. I was introduced to the people I now call my second family.
Since then, I have gone on four trips in three states; visited the birthplace of Habitat twice; attended the Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.; and met hundreds of people with unique stories and backgrounds.
This summer, I headed to Americus for a second time since my first visit in 2012. At first, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to go to a new part of the country this year. My trips to Florida and Arkansas had been my first times visiting those states, and I yearned for this opportunity again. After reflecting on my most recent trip, I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
During my first trip to Georgia, we worked on a few homes in a neighborhood built by Flint River Habitat in Albany. We painted and helped with the finishing touches on several houses. Coming back to the neighborhood this year, I learned that all but two houses were complete, and we would work on those last two homes. I was hit by a wave of emotion when we pulled onto the street for the first day of building. This was the first time I had seen this kind of progress in person.
Seeing the impact our work could make on a community really brought my Habitat experience full circle. Not only were individuals being given a hand up, but a new life had been created for an entire neighborhood. This is special. This is why the work I’ve done matters. This is why I am grateful to have been a participant in the Learn and Build Experience. It has opened my eyes to so many things, and it pushes me to continue working with Habitat for as long as I can.