By: Christine Balint
As a Buckeye, everyone has their own individualized experience during their time at Ohio State. We hear about the educational abroad opportunities, the research development within the college, and watch as leaders step forward to promote diversity and love within our college community. I assume many students have heard of Buck-I-Serv, but have not taken the time to research and learn more about this great organization. Buck-I-Serv is centered-around community service and civic engagement where students learn the importance of active citizenship and working in diverse environments. I’ve decided to share my story to hopefully spark the interest of fellow students to devote some of their time here at OSU to an organization that does much more than provide manpower.
This winter break, I took the time to travel to Cleveland County Oklahoma where I spent five days working with Habitat for Humanity. With a team of seven fellow buckeyes, we worked to build a home for a tornado survivor and learned her story of how she lost her home in 2013. Lee Anne is a single mother who has lived in Norman, Oklahoma for most of her life. Tornados in Oklahoma are similar to how Ohioans treat severe thunderstorms or snowstorms: something we always hear about, but rarely takes precaution towards. During tornado season, Lee Anne’s home would be located in the direct path of one of the most powerful tornados Norman had seen in years. Arriving home after the storm, Lee Anne would only see her shower standing where her home once stood. Jumping forward to 2016, Lee Anne had began her journey towards a new home with Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity does not give away homes for free, they do however provide a zero interest rate to make it more affordable for the homeowner. I had never worked with Habitat, and was excited to get my hands dirty and use skills I’ve learned from FFA/4H to help build this home. Little did I know that the time and work we put into the home helps Habitat offer the zero percent interest rate (which would come from outside contractors paid hourly on normal sites). Lee Anne visited us on the site and shared her personal story while installing dry wall throughout the home. I could see in her eyes that we truly were a blessing in her life and she graciously expressed her gratitude towards us committing our break time towards helping her. It was this moment that I knew I had provided a service, a service to a fellow man in need.
Over the remainder of the trip, I learned more about the social justice issue of poverty and homelessness. Norman, Oklahoma is known for it’s homeless population and my team had the opportunity to interact and work with members of that community while we were staying at the local church. Every person has his or her own story, and it is our duty to break the stereotype that lies behind homelessness.
I never could have imagined the impact this service trip would have on my time here at Ohio State. I worked with amazing members of the Habitat for Humanity team, was able to explore Oklahoma City, and travel halfway across the country with seven other buckeyes I can gladly call my good friends. I’ve learned that there is much more I can do from just volunteering. Through service I can work towards a better tomorrow, and overcome obstacles that surround our growing society. Lee Anne continues to update my team on the progress of her home and follows our lives as we proceed through college. I am forever grateful for this service opportunity and plan to commit more of my time towards service while here at Ohio State. In summary, I share the words of Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”