California – Santa Clarita: Habitat for Humanity

Blake Nawrocki

Blake Nawrocki is going into his senior year at UCLA as a Psychology major. He has been extremely involved at UCLA as a member of Sigma Pi Fraternity and the UCPD CSO Programs. This summer, he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity at UCLA, an organization he has been involved with since his sophomore year. Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical housing organization that seeks to eliminate poverty housing from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. UCLA’s chapter was revived on campus eight years ago to assist Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley region. In its time back at UCLA, this chapter of Habitat for Humanity has assisted in the completion of build sites at Sylmar and Pacoima. Currently, the organization is working in Santa Clarita to build an Enriched Neighborhood of 87 homes specifically for the families of US military veterans. Blake chose to volunteer with this organization because it is the perfect outlet to give back to underserved communities in a way in which volunteers can physically see the difference they are making. In fact, Blake said, “Every hour of work we put in at our build site goes to constructing homes for deserving families- homes that I know will positively impact their lives for many years to come.”

One unique aspect of this organization is the opportunity to work with service recipients to perform service. This has been especially true of the current Enriched Neighborhood program. On build days for this endeavor, Habitat volunteers get to the construction site early to meet with the project manager, then work with some of the veterans receiving the homes to lead groups of corporate volunteers in doing whatever needs to be done at site that day. Daily projects range from laying the foundation for a plot to painting doors to literally putting up the walls of a house. For Blake, working with the veterans at this site has been an eye opening experience that has increased his awareness of the issues veterans often face upon return to civilian life, and of the importance of making sure these veterans are taken care of. Without proper support systems in place, such as financial training or PTSD counseling, many veterans can be left unequipped to fully support their families on their own. Blake said, “Seeing firsthand the financial and emotional struggles our military heroes go through deeply affected me and gave me a renewed admiration for the duties they take on to keep us safe.”

Habitat for Humanity at UCLA volunteers have also been able to directly work with service recipients through its new Homework Help mentorship program. This program takes volunteers back to the finished Sylmar site to provide tutoring and positive role models to the children of the families the homes were built for. Volunteers help these children with schoolwork and teach a curriculum tailored to their needs before engaging in arts and crafts or sports activities with them. When asked about his favorite memory while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity at UCLA, Blake responded,

“My favorite moment with the group was our presentation of the first 25 homes at our current build site. It was really fulfilling to see the incredible gratitude expressed by the families receiving keys after starting work at an empty site just a year earlier.”

To get involved with Habitat for Humanity at UCLA, attend a meeting! Throughout Fall Quarter 2015, the student organization will meet every Tuesday from 6-7pm in Haines A2. At meetings, priority sign-ups are offered for weekend Build Days and Homework Help sessions. Meetings also aim to educate students on the housing inequalities that exist all around Los Angeles and what you can do to help. Interested volunteers can also check out Habitat for Humanity at UCLA’s website or Facebook page.

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