Thursday, February 2, 2006
Students to help Gulf rebuild during spring break
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Layla Kayyod and Lisa Gajeski are trying to raise money for their spring break trip. They are planning to head south, but not to lie on the beach and get a tan. They are among the 20 Oakland University students heading to the Gulf Coast as part of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, where they will build houses for those whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The students will work on building houses with the East St. Tammany Parish Affiliate in Slidell, La., 30 miles from New Orleans, Feb. 26-March 4. Each day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., they will help others already building houses in the area. At night, they plan to reflect on their experiences of the day and go through team building exercises.
“I think putting yourself in an area that was so devastated by a natural disaster and seeing the people truly affected by it — I think it’s going to be eye-opening,” said Gajeski, president of OU’s Habitat chapter and co-organizer of the Collegiate Challenge.
Currently, the students are raising funds to offset the $600 they each must pay for travel and food. Lodging is being provided at a local church.
The group has sold paper bricks for $1, $3 and $5 in the Oakland Center since the beginning of the winter semester. The bricks will be on display in the Center for Student Activities for the rest of the semester. They also are selling homemade cedar birdhouses for $25. Altogether, the group has raised more than $330 dollars, which will be split between all the members going on the trip.
While the cost is high for some students, Kayyod, treasurer and co-organizer of the Collegiate Challenge, said the benefits outweigh the cost.
“You can’t go anywhere on vacation for $600 and get such a reward out of it — the feeling that we made a difference,” she said. “Maybe in the future we can get more people to go.”
This year, 30 people expressed an interested in going on the Collegiate Challenge trip, however, space only allowed for 20 to attend. Gajeski is proud of the response, especially since this is Habitat Oakland’s first year as a formal student organization.
This year, Habitat Oakland has helped out at one Habitat for Humanity build every month in local cities. They also are raising money for the Youth United Build where Habitat youth, like Habitat Oakland, raise money and build houses themselves.
Before Habitat Oakland was a recognized student organization, a few OU students volunteered for local Habitat build projects and attended Collegiate Challenge events. Participating in this challenge was one of Habitat Oakland’s goals for the year.
“We could have chosen a build anywhere, even as close as Kalamazoo,” Kayyod said. “But New Orleans was the best area to go because they need it the most. I think it’s going to be a life changing experience.”
For more information on Habitat Oakland or to donate to the Collegiate Challenge trip, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Center for Student Activities at (248) 370-2400. All donations are tax deductible.