About 20 high school students — participants in Habitat for Humanity’s “Learn and Build Experience” — braved the scorching Louisiana heat Saturday to put the finishing touches on a 1,200-square-foot home in Lafayette’s McComb-Veazey neighborhood Saturday.
“We are thrilled to have been chosen to host ‘Learn and Build’ for the second year in a row,” said Joelle Boudreaux, volunteer services director for Habitat for Humanity in Lafayette. “It’s so inspiring that these kids have chosen to come out and work with us during their summer break. We’re really excited to have them out at the site.”
The “Learn and Build Experience” provides young people from across the country, ages 16 to 18, the opportunity to travel to a new community, get involved in Habitat’s mission and learn more about the issues surrounding poverty housing.
“For most of our students, this is the first time they have been able to do work like this,” said Caitlin Lamb, a member of Habitat for Humanity International in Atlanta. “They have definitely gotten the hang of it fast. Lafayette is a great city, and it’s a great experience for these kids.”
Isabella Cobble, a graduating senior from Quincy High School in Quincy, Massachusetts, said the experience has been fun and she’s formed a strong bond with the other student volunteers.
“This is my first time in Louisiana, and I have never met any of these people before,” said Cobble, who plans to major in engineering at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst in the fall.
“We have really bonded and become really close,” she said. “It has always been my life dream to do a project with Habitat, and I think I will do more with them in the future. It has been a very positive experience.”
Brandi Brady, site supervisor for the home at 408 14th St. in Lafayette, said the crew arrives every day at 8 a.m. and stays out until 3:30 p.m. The 10-day trip includes an educational curriculum in the evenings that provides information on poverty, housing and how to be better global citizens.
“These kids have learned so much this week,” Brady said. “Summer and winter are our toughest months to find volunteers, but we’re out here, we drink a lot of water and it’s a very fulfilling experience.”
Brady, who is finishing her first year with Habitat, said being still relatively young allows her a better perspective to explain to volunteers about mistakes.
“I am not super veteran, so I’ve made the mistakes myself fairly recently,” Brady said. “This house was pretty bare, and they’ve learned the spackle, the sand, the paint, what happens when you make a mistake with the paint and how to make it better.”
The project takes roughly three months to complete from the ground up, Brady said. Contractors do the plumbing electrical and slab, and from there, volunteers do the rest.
“We put the walls up, put the roof on — everything from the walls to the toilet paper holders,” Brady said.
The house is being completed for Mildred August, a grandmother raising two grandchildren and who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. Despite going through radiation treatments, Brady said, August has been one of Habitat’s more helpful recipients.
“She is amazing,” Brady said. “She has done the floors with us; she can use all the saws. She is an amazing painter. She chose the colors, the tile, the cabinets, and if she were here today, she’d be doing all this with us. I’ll be happy to see her in the home, but we’re going to miss working with her.”