Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 20, 2014

Out-of-state students help build Habitat for Humanity home

TAHLEQUAH — For many college students, spring break means throwing the books aside and partying in a warmer clime – or at least getting some rest before the second half of the semester.

In Tahlequah, students from two colleges up north decided to spend their break in Oklahoma, building a house.

The students, with the help of four professionals, are working on the Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity home at 189 Bean St.

“We do so much schoolwork that it feels weird to be totally free without work for a week,” said Amita Ramachandran, a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. “I wanted to do something useful with my time. Habitat doesn’t exist where I come from.”

Ramachandran, who came to Macalester from Kerala, India, by way of high school in Singapore, is among 16 Macalester students participating in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge.

“There are also nine students from the University of Iowa,” said Linda Cheatham, executive director for TAHFH. “Macalester is a private liberal arts college, and every year some of their students go somewhere for an alternative spring break.”

Joseph Glenn, a graduate student from Chapel Hill, N.C., said the Iowa contingent thought the Cherokee Nation capital might be interesting - plus Tahlequah wasn’t too far away.

“We didn’t want the trip to be more than hour hours – a day’s drive,” Glenn said. “Five of us are working on the walls, the framing and nailing up plywood for the siding. There are two who are working on the shed. It wasn’t there yesterday, and now it’s almost done. That was some instant gratification. A building was finished in the time we were here.”

The house is on a construction schedule, during which different groups complete different parts of the building. The Collegiate Challenge students are framing, sheathing and installing trusses sub fascia and rat runs. They are at the site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Macalester student Agnes Biswald, from Tanzania, said she didn’t want to spend her spring break doing nothing or “procrastinating.”

“It might sound a little crazy, but I enjoy physical activity and physical labor,” she said. “There are now a couple of walls, and it feels great to know that you are part of that. There will be more before we leave.”

On Tuesday, the group took a short break and heard from Robert Lewis, a Cherokee storyteller.

“It was awfully cold, so we brought them back to the Habitat offices to warm up and take part in an interactive story,” Cheatham said. “They seemed to really enjoy it.”

Students have donated $3,750 to purchase building materials. The house is the 21st built by TAHFH, and is being constructed for Jason and Lindsey Rhoades and their three children.

“People need to know it isn’t a free house,” Cheatham said. “Our homeowners are selected through a competitive elective process. They must meet income guidelines and have reasonably good credit. They pay a mortgage, we just don’t take any profit. They only pay for the cost of the house.”

TAHFH is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry. Those wishing to volunteer can submit applications online at www.tahlequahhabitat.org or call (918) 453-1332.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

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