Written By: Shaun Williams – Assistant Director of Residence Life at Castleton University, Habitat Club Advisor

Dear Emma,

This is a hard thing for me to do, I think every day about how I can explain to people who ask me how was Georgia. The things that come to mind are “Where’s Kyle”, you peeing your pants at reflection, Corey’s Nip slip, talking with the
owner about her story, Ron, Bobby, and Jon Michael. All things that would never really mean anything to the people who asked me about the trip. These trips are something greater than all of us and help us each for many different reasons. The trip at its core is about spending a week during spring break not partying, not drinking, not sun bathing, but building a home or doing a project that will change the course of someone’s life.

Then you spend two days in a car with people and you start seeing a bond while singing musicals and asking questions about who these people are. Then we start our work. We start to understand that through our hard work we are building a shelter, a home for someone who does not have adequate and safe housing. Wall after wall, truss after truss you become bonded with these 15 individuals who did not really grasp yet what they were accomplishing that first day. Then we go home from the site, even though we want to keep building because there is so much more still to do.

We get home, we have dinner, and we do our first night of reflection. What does this trip mean to you, what are you most excited for, what has surprised you. The night is usually filled with conversation and stories of our first day. We repeat this for four more nights. The day is always the hardest. You have bonded with strangers, people who you are now friends with. You say goodbye to the workers on site, wishing you had more time with them to just finish one more project, you get sad that you might not see them again. I would imagine it can feel like a depression hits you. But at the same time you feel accomplished, you feel a sense of completion, that you are again apart of something greater. You go back to the church where you make dinner one last time and you sit down for your last reflection. We laugh, we cry, and we share all of our great memories. Shaun then will say something like no one can ever take this experience away from you. We are all now bonded together by what we just accomplished.

Raise your hand if you would have been friends with everyone here back at school if we all did not go on this trip. (No one raises a hand). That is why this is so special. We take risks, we don’t judge, we work together to better the lives of strangers and then somehow we better the lives of the people we went on the trip with. We all leave better people. The challenge of writing anything about an event like this, the 15 people who went on this trip understand every word that was just written, and everyone else has to imagine what it was like but will never fully understand until they experience something like this for themselves.

Close your eyes, honestly close your eyes and imagine a time you accomplished something, something you were told you wouldn’t, something that gave you intense happiness. Imagine a time you changed a life or someone changed yours, think of those feelings you had. That is what it is like, just greater. My one piece of advice for anyone who is reading this, take that risk, travel abroad, sign up for habitat, get out of your comfort zone, the world will be a better place because of it.
Your life will change with an experience like this and I promise you when you look back at photos of your on spring break it will never compare to photos of your building something that will change someone’s life.

I could never use words to do justice about what took place that one week in Georgia. It is a gift that was given to the 15 people who embarked on an adventure to a warm location to build a home. They all came back a better person and changed forever.


-Shaun Williams