Traveling for Community Service: The Best Way to Explore

My name is Jordyn Hotchkiss. I am 22 years old and as May 2016, I will have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature, along with two minors in Media Writing and Photography. With a passion for reading and writing, I aspire to be an Editor one day and have worked a little harder each day to get where I am. Being blessed with a wonderful family and education, I have been given multiple opportunities to travel in and out of the United States, but I dream of traveling the world and seeing all there is to see. I may be a small town New Hampshire girl, but I’m ready to take the leap into the big wide world!

Traveling for Community Service - Habitat for Humanity trip to Winston-Salem North Carolina - Frayed Passport

Habitat for Humanity trip to Winston-Salem North Carolina

I have been fortunate enough in my life to have had many travel opportunities with my family. From driving across the United States hitting many of the major tourist spots, to spending two weeks in Europe visiting family, I am so blessed. Over the past three years, however, my traveling has been done with my college chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat has granted me trips that I never imagined I would go on, and it allowed me to push my boundaries more than I ever thought I could. That is exactly what traveling is supposed to do.

Traveling is supposed to put you out of your comfort zone and get you to try new things. It is meant to encourage you to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Reflect on the opportunities you have been given in life by exploring the world through community service. By giving up your time to help someone in need, I have found that you tend to learn more about yourself, and Habitat has taught me more than I ever thought it could.

Each year Habitat for Humanity at Lycoming College spends a week in a different state, helping build a home for a family in need. My first trip was to Taos, New Mexico during my sophomore year. While in Taos, I pushed and discovered my limits. Terrified that I would not physically be able to go on the trip, I dug trenches and laid the cinderblock base of an Adobe home while on crutches. The January before, I injured my knee during practice and was on crutches for several months, but that did not stop me. With the aid of my classmates and advisors, I put my own injury aside for the sake of a family who needed a home. No longer did I think about my own personal pain, but instead turned it into motivation. Performing community service creates a whole new atmosphere for yourself and the people around you.

Many of the students that attend the Habitat for Humanity trip each year are ones that I would not have known without Habitat. We are all in different majors, sororities/fraternities, and circles of friends, but to be able to put those differences aside for the sake of someone else makes the trip all the more important. These are students who I would see at school every day, going to class, in the cafeteria, or out on the quad. We’d give the occasional “hello” or nod of the head to recognize each other, but very rarely would conversation ensue. While on campus, the atmosphere is entirely different; as soon as we pack up the vans or get to the airport, we are all connected on a new level. We forget that we do not generally hang around the same crowd, and create a strong bond.

Looking forward to the coming week of hard work, sleeping on floors, and not getting enough sleep, the airport buzzes with excitement and anticipation. Every year it is the same—quieter on Day 1 upon arrival, but loud and obnoxious on Day 7 while leaving, awaiting the “Habitat Blues” as we all like to call it.

Throughout the week, our small group of around 20 students bond with each other, our advisors, our site officials, and other volunteers. Laughter rings through the work site as we sing songs, make jokes, and pretend we’re in the film “Holes” as we dig deeper and deeper to lay the water and electrical lines.

Each year is a little different in the type of work, the people who go, and the different activities we do on our day off. Year 1 in New Mexico was laying the foundation of an Adobe Home and preparing the ground around it for water and electrical lines. Year 2 we ventured to Amarillo, Texas, where we participated in the wall raising ceremony and put up the framing of the house. Finally, in Year 3 we worked on multiple houses putting up vinyl siding—having the privilege of finishing the outside of one of the homes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Through these three years I have contributed to building a home from the ground up and been able to explore three different areas I never would have visited if it were not for Habitat for Humanity. I have gone horseback riding in New Mexico, hiked down a canyon in Texas, and hiked up a mountain North Carolina. Each trip has offered me the wonderful experience of putting myself aside and helping a more important cause, a fulfilling way to travel the world.

Community Service is not only important for the people who you are helping, but as I stated it earlier, it teaches you about yourself as well. At the end of the week, we all reflect on our week and share with the group the impact that the trip has had on each of us. To be perfectly honest, between balancing school work and extracurriculars and being so far away from home, the past few years have been difficult, but each year I am rejuvenated at the end of spring break. My spirits are lifted and motivation is restored to get through those last couple months of school. This is exactly how community service should make you feel. Habitat for Humanity can be local or you can travel the world, but no matter where you go, it grants you multiple opportunities to help a family in need and rejuvenate your sense of self.

By performing service I can truly reflect on myself and how I want to spend my free time as years go on. The opportunity to travel and explore through service checks two boxes off of my bucket list. As a girl with a sense of adventure, a dream of traveling the world, and a goal of making the world a better place, Habitat for Humanity, and many other service organizations, allow me, and thousands of others, the opportunity to achieve goals such as this.