Virginia Tech students helped the volunteers of the Hurley Community Development by providing services to low-income families in the area.
As an international student, I never imagined that the United States had communities with a lot of low-income families. That’s not what we watch on TV. We think that everyone lives very well in the States. Non-US citizens like me never plan to visit places like Hurley while living in the United States because:
- We do not know that these communities exist and,
- We prefer spending our time visiting the most popular cities in the US.
The moment that really touched my heart was when we arrived Hurley. During the entire way to the Community Center (the place where we stayed), I had tears in my eyes just by looking at the houses where people live. The houses are in a very poor condition. They were built by their owners and/or the volunteers of the community using track trailers. Look at these houses made me feel sad. I realized how I have given priority to other things in my life neglecting the fact that I can also help people in so many different ways. To be honest, I regretted of all the times that I wanted to participate in a community service trip and I did not do it because I always had the excuse of having a lot of things to do in my Ph.D.
I was the only graduate student in the group, all of the volunteers were undergraduate students. I really admired the attitude of these guys! There were always willing to help and to do whatever they had to. They never complained and they enjoyed every single moment, even if they had to wash a bathroom. I told them in our final reflection meeting in Hurley:
“Do not stop helping people! As we get older, we get busier and we always have an excuse. Our responsibilities are more important than anything. We prefer going on a vacation than going to a community to help people. That’s the reason why I am the only graduate student here! Everyone is back in Tech working. I probably should be doing the same, but I took the risk of coming to this trip because I wanted to do something that was worth during the break. Of course, I will have to work twice harder once I come back to Blacksburg in order to meet all of my responsibilities but that’s ok, I will do it! So, do not let your enthusiasm and desire to help people disappear as you get older!”
This semester I am teaching the Construction Management course in the Civil Engineering program. I shared my experience in Hurley with my students because my main purpose as an instructor of this course is not only transmitting knowledge but also to motivate and inspire them to be their own best selves. When I was showing them all the projects that we did such as building a deck, repairing a roof, installing drywall, painting, repairing a floor, plumbing, and underpinning, I told them:
“We should stop thinking only about us!! We complain so much about all the things that we do not have. These people have few amenities but they are more thankful and humble than us! There is always an excuse, so if you have the change to giving back to the community, don’t think too much and just do it because, at the end, it is very rewarding!!”
I was the only civil engineer in that group. There was only one student in the construction management program and two of the architecture program. The rest of the students were from programs like biology, psychology, materials science, computer science, etc. So, Anyone can do it! Remove that excuse from your list!!
Working as a volunteer is something that I want to do each time that I can because this makes me happy. It is also a way to show how grateful I am for all the help that I have received during my life.
“A thank you” coming from people that we help really touch the bottom of our heart. This is the most truthful thank you that we can ever hear.