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United States: ‘Here to Help’ -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

United States: ‘Here to Help’


Sami Wallace (center)


Eighteen-year-old Sami Wallace initially became introduced to Habitat at a Global Village Youth Leadership Conference in Chicago in 2009. Throughout her senior year of high school in North Carolina, she helped landscape Habitat houses, traveled to Raleigh to advocate for affordable housing and helped put together an advocacy day at her school.

“I became really passionate about affordable housing,” she says. “I love going on trips far away, and I saw [the Learn and Build trip] on an email. I thought, ‘Hmmm … 15 people I don’t know, a week in a place I’ve never been — I think I could do that.’”

The Learn and Build trips are one-week service opportunities for students to meet new people, gain experience on a build site and participate in educational activities geared toward learning more about housing issues. “It was really weird for 15 people to get along that well,” Wallace says. “But we saw a home dedication, and it was like, ‘This is what we all want.’ We’re just here to help people.”

Wallace began her studies at Milwaukee School of Engineering this past fall in architectural design and construction management. Wallace has already speculated that designing a green Habitat house would make a worthwhile senior project. After her experience volunteering, she is confident that learning the skills to accomplish the task is mostly a matter of time and dedication. “We all came away with skills we didn’t expect to have,” she says. “I don’t think anyone would look at me and say, ‘That girl can side a house.’”