Even though it has participated in Habitat for Humanity International’s alternative break trips since 2004, WKU’s Campus Chapter has been honored among the top five in the 20-year history of the group’s Collegiate Challenge.
“I was shocked when I received an email about the award,” said Bryan Reaka, chapter co-advisor and assistant professor in the Department of Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences.
Habitat for Humanity began the Collegiate Challenge program in 1989 and “they wanted to do something special to recognize the chapters that had gone above and beyond,” Reaka said. Habitat has 750 campus chapters and about 15,000 students participate annually in spring break trips.
The WKU chapter began its alternative break trips in March 2004 when seven members traveled to Xenia, Ohio. From that beginning, the number of trips and participants has grown for both winter and spring break.
Since 2004, Reaka estimates about 200 students have participated in 27 trips. The busiest year was 2006 when the chapter traveled to eight locations for spring break.
During the Collegiate Challenge trips, participants work with a local Habitat affiliate on projects. The Collegiate Challenge theme is “one week can change a life.” “We’ve seen that happen many times,” Reaka said. “I have seen it happen many times. It is what keeps me doing this.”
Chapter co-president Jennifer Dooper, an Owensboro junior, made her first Habitat trip two years ago to Georgia and was the coordinator for the chapter’s winter and spring break trips this year. “It’s work but it’s not work,” she said. “It’s a vacation in a fulfilling kind of way.”
The chapter has 65 active members. Danielle Marsh, a senior from St. Charles, Ill., also is co-president. Membership is open to anyone – students, faculty and staff.
“Building is the most visible part of this ministry,” Reaka said, “but we need all kinds of help and skills.”
The campus chapter works with the Bowling Green Habitat affiliate on build days and at the ReStore and also participates in tool training, educational events, social events and fund-raising activities.
One upcoming fund-raiser is an Easter egg project to collect spare change. Campus chapter members will visit neighborhoods on one weekend and distribute plastic Easter eggs with a note explaining the value of Habitat for Humanity. Then the next weekend, members will collect the eggs.
The chapter also will conduct a doughnut sale this month to raise funds and will participate in Habitat’s Act! Speak! Build! Week on March 30-April 4. Money raised by the chapter is used to help pay for trips and supplies.
The chapter has two spring break trips planned for next month. Reaka’s trip will be extra special because it will be his 20th build trip in his 14 years of working with Habitat.
“It definitely grabs you and pulls you in,” he said. “From the inside you cannot explain it and from the outside you cannot really understand it.”