On March 23, more than a dozen Georgetown Masters of Business Administration students volunteered their time to build houses with Habitat for Humanity and the Audubon Institute in New Orleans, La. Tahira Taylor (GRD ’17), vice president of community and sustainability for the McDonough School of Business, organized and gathered funding for the five-day venture.
Taylor said she wanted to organize the trip as an opportunity for Georgetown students to be funded to travel internationally, basing the service trip on service treks at other universities.
“A lot of other schools offer service treks and the MSB is big on service and on our global presence,” Taylor said. “This trip was domestic due to timing, but the plan is to make it an international thing. There are no other planned, group travel activities outside of the global project, but it’s clear the desire is there.”
Students constructed a house in its early stages, gathered materials and assembled various elements of the building’s infrastructure during the trip. Tejal Desai (GRD ’17), an MBA student who participated in the service trip, said she was shocked by how much the students accomplished in just a few days in New Orleans.
“By the end of the last day of our service trek we were able to put up the walls which was really cool. Habitat generally takes about 12 weeks to build a full house so it was really nice to see that within a few days we were really able to do something that really advanced the progress of the house,” Desai said.
According to Desai, making progress in the construction of the house was crucial because of the damage that remains in the area from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Desai said the damage that remains is worse than many people realize.
“There’s still a lot that needs to be done in terms of rebuilding houses and finding a lot of families a place to live because their houses got destroyed,” Desai said. “There wasn’t a lot of government support and there’s still a lot that needs to be done, which is shocking because we stopped hearing about it in the news a long time ago but there’s still a great need for volunteers.”
David Crowley (MBA ’17), who volunteers regularly with For Love of Children’s program for underprivileged children, also participated in the MBA service trip. Crowley said he loved giving back to the community in a different way than he usually does in D.C.
“We actually met one of the other family homeowners that had just started moving into the house that had been completed last month,” Crowley said, “So that was pretty neat to get their perspective on all the benefits of the program and how appreciative they were of all the work Habitat’s doing down there.”
According to Desai, getting the right number of participants and sufficient funding for the trip were both immense challenges Taylor faced in her organization of the trip. Desai said Taylor created a GoFundMe page, which allowed her to raise money for the trip from independent donations by friends, family and faculty, covering nearly all student costs except airfare.
According to Taylor, the hardest part of the trip was encouraging patience and teamwork among the group.
“The biggest challenge was patience in teamwork,” Taylor said. “For example, in order to build the wall, a few of us had to first gather the wood, then a few of us has to measure and cut, then came the hammering and then assembly and so on. Everyone had a job.”
Taylor offered several pieces of advice for students considering planning service trips in any capacity and emphasized the importance of patience, especially when things do not go as planned.
“Be patient,” Taylor said. “Things that might seem like they’re coming together could fall apart. I had too many people booked, so I had to turn people away, only for people to cancel last minute, which meant we would not meet the needs of the site. It worked out in the end, but it was frustrating at first to have too many, and then to have too few and even turn people away.”
Taylor said much of her advice is universal since it applies to practically any challenge students may face during their undergraduate and graduate careers.
“Understand that people are going to complain no matter what. Not everyone will be happy, or think the work is sexy, so don’t try to please everyone. At the end of the day it is a service trip. It’s not meant to bolster anyone’s ego,” Taylor said.
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