Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Kristen Eklund

During spring break a group of six Wheaton College students traveled to Montana to work on houses for Habitat for Humanity, after raising $9,000 to pay for the trip. The group included Joshua Begley ’10, Melissa Carter ’11, Kristen Eklund ’12, Carleen Higgins ’12, Rebecca Rafe ’10 (co-president of Wheaton’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity) and John Seeler ’13. We asked Eklund about the experience.

The project. We worked on two different houses in Montana. One was in Belgrade, and the other in Bozeman. We spent most of our time in Bozeman because that’s where the church we were staying in was located.

The family in need. The first house had not been bought yet, but we were fortunate to meet and work with the family that would be moving into the house in Bozeman. It was a husband and wife and their four children. The husband was involved with Habitat for Humanity in other ways besides receiving a house. So he was able to serve as a supervisor while we worked. Each member of the family was excited about their house and was very appreciative to have us there helping. Habitat makes it a priority to involve the families as much as possible in the building process.

The nuts and bolts. The majority of our work was painting. We had to paint the walls, ceilings and floors in the house in Belgrade. At Bozeman, we painted the walls, but also the trim around the outside of the house. That was tedious because we had to be careful not to get any paint of the siding. As our supervisor Carlton told us, “No drips, no spills, no errors!”

The motivation. Community service has always been important to me, and I’ve been looking for a way to get involved in something meaningful at school. I think Habitat for Humanity in particular provides a worthwhile service to others in need.

The lesson. I think the most important thing that I learned was the necessity to branch out and try new things and to reach out to others. This is probably the most significant thing I’ve learned while at Wheaton—that a well-rounded student is involved in the community inside and outside of the classroom.

Most rewarding. Meeting and talking to the family whose house we were helping to build was extremely rewarding, and seeing the progress we made by our last day there was as well. It was nice knowing that we were able to make such a difference in these people’s lives. It’s also rewarding knowing that we were able to work together to fund raise and figure out the details that made the entire trip possible.