Spring break is a long way off, but thousands of college students are already making plans for that perfect getaway to Cancun or road trip to Florida.
At the same time, there is another group of people gearing up for a very different spring break experience.
Instead of relaxing and partying, they will be challenging themselves through volunteer work.
These students will be participating in a program called the Collegiate Challenge, a decade-old program created by Habitat for Humanity International.
The majority of Collegiate Challenge members are enlisted during spring break.
This year, the program will be running from Feb. 16 through April 13, 2003.
Habitat has been constructing and improving housing for low-income families all over the globe since 1976.
Habitat affiliates function in 83 countries including 1,900 affiliates in the United States.
In 1996, President Clinton awarded Habitat founder Millard Fuller with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
Over 500,000 people have obtained housing through Habitat, and membership and participation continues to grow each year.
Although Habitat International is based in Americus, GA, there is an active chapter of the organization in just about every major city in the United States, including Philadelphia.
10,326 college students from 450 colleges nationwide took part in the last spring’s Collegiate Challenge.
Several colleges in the area, including Temple, Villanova and the University of Pennsylvania, are participating in the upcoming Collegiate Challenge.
For the 2002 Collegiate Challenge 20 Temple University students packed up and traveled to Flint River, Mich.
The trip is not for the faint of heart.
The hours are long and unpaid, but the results are satisfying and meaningful, according to volunteers.
No work experience is necessary. Participants pay a $10 program fee, which covers medical insurance.
They are also asked for a donation to cover living expenses. Housing is provided in churches, local YMCA’s, and private homes.
The volunteers arrange their own transportation.
Temple students can get involved at the local Habitat affiliate, located at 1829 North 19th St.
The Central North Philadelphia Affiliate has completed 52 homes that house more than 250 people.
Families and individuals that receive Habitat housing are selected based on their financial need and their ability to repay the non-profit, no-interest mortgages on the completed projects.
Although the organization is an ecumenical Christian housing organization, the selection is made without regard to religious beliefs.
The average price of a Habitat home is about $46,642 in the United States. The money earned from the sale of these homes returns to a revolving fund that is used to buy more materials and property for the program.
The program’s beneficiaries invest hundred of hours of labor into the building of their new homes.
Habitat calls this “sweat equity” and it is one of the contractual requirements of those receiving Habitat housing.
For more information about the North Philadelphia Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, contact volunteer coordinator Tonya Zimmerman at (215)-765-6000 ext. 23 or send an email to email@example.com.
Eric Raible can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org