Sometimes seeing something from a different point of view can make a world of difference. That was the case for Mackenzie Hampson, a senior finance major, and Julie Chea, a senior computing in the arts major, both of whom were among a group of students who volunteered earlier this fall with Home Works of America to help repair the home of an elderly Lowcountry woman.
Home Works, a nonprofit that repairs homes for elderly, disabled or veteran homeowners across South Carolina, works with students from across the state to perform volunteer labor under the supervision of a contractor. Home Works collaborated with the College’s Center for Civic Engagement to identify students to volunteer their time to help make the woman’s home in the west side neighborhood of downtown Charleston livable, safe, and energy efficient.
“Now, although I have learned a lot about the importance of sustainable and safe housing, I had only thought and read about how it affected young families,” says Hampson. “It wasn’t until my engagement with Home Works that I opened my eyes to the diversity of the issue. Not only did I gain a broader perspective on sustainable housing, I learned that there is an entire population that is often unspoken for when it comes to this issue.”
College of Charleston President Glenn F. McConnell ’69 has been a strong advocate of helping seniors age in place. During his time as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina and head of the state’s Office of Aging, McConnell learned that some seniors have trouble staying in their homes and because there are not enough affordable care options, such as nursing homes or senior living communities, they are limited in how they can enjoyably live out their golden years.
In late October, McConnell hosted a breakfast at the President’s House, sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina and SCANA, that centered on the topic of sustainability for aging seniors, particularly in terms of housing. During the breakfast, Home Works, Hampson and Chea were recognized for their work on the senior citizen’s home.
“I’m so proud of the work our students did on the house and will encourage the continued collaboration between Home Works and the College’s Center for Civic Engagement because it positively impacts the community and aligns with our Quality Enhancement Plan on sustainability,” McConnell said at the event.
Chris Ciarcia, the associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement, believes one of the reasons these Home Works projects are so important is because they highlight the importance of true solidarity – the idea that we are all in this thing called life together, no matter who we are or where we come from.
Chea reinforced this idea when she reflected on her volunteer service.
“While working with Home Works and engaging with [the homeowner], I began to think a lot about the importance of transgenerational engagement – something that I had never thought of before,” says Chea. “There are obvious differences between current and preceding generations, however, Home Works provided me with the opportunity to see that there are always ways to bridge that gap. Having the opportunity to speak with [the homeowner] really put history into personal and real-life perspectives. I began to realize that our generations have a lot in common.”
And Hampson and Chea will put their new-found passion for community service to good use as leaders for the Center for Civic Engagement’s Alternative Break Program this spring. The Alternative Break Program is a transformative learning opportunity where students spend their spring break addressing critical social issues throughout the country. Alumni of the College’s Alternative Spring Break program have gone on to work at the White House, Lowcountry Food Bank, the City of Baltimore, Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, among other notable organizations.
In March 2018, Chea will co-lead a trip to Selma, Alabama, that will focus on civil rights, while Hampson will co-lead a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, focusing on affordable and sustainable housing. The application deadline for students to participate in the spring 2018 Alternative Break Program is this Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.