I first heard of Habitat for Humanity when I was in middle school. It was summer vacation, the highlight of a young schoolboy’s year, and my older sister had decided to spend her free months in Vietnam building houses for communities in need. At the time, I didn’t understand why she would want to spend the precious summer months toiling in the heat of southeast Asia. Little did I know I would soon be embarking on a similar journey.
For most of my life, I have been involved with various community service events. Bake sales, adopt-a-highway and national awareness campaigns have all been prominent parts of my childhood and allowed me to engage with my community and contribute to society. However, it was only when I learned about Habitat for Humanity, I discovered that I have a passion for building homes, communities and hope and that I want to continue to pursue this passion.
Whitney Wolfe Herd once said, “Life is about perspective…ultimately, you have to zoom out”. Growing up, I had never really considered the living conditions of people in rural China. My privilege had blinded me to the socioeconomic issues that faced a large part of the population in my community. My first project with Habitat brought me to a rural neighborhood merely one hour away from my city-center home. When I first stepped into the community there, my world was turned upside down. I realized that not everyone had adequate shelter, drinkable water, or even enough to eat. We did all we could to help the people there improve the place they call home. Through collaboration with the public, we were able to build a community garden and playground to address concerns of quality food access and give residents a gathering place. Working and conversing with the locals, I was able to better understand the issues they face on a daily basis. Understanding breeds empathy, which in turn leads to action. I will continue to work to serve underprivileged communities and address the public health issues of quality shelter and food deserts.
As I was able to transition from my youthful ignorance, I hoped others could do the same. When I was back in the States, as a new semester commenced, I leapt at the opportunity to start a Habitat for Humanity campus chapter. Our goal is not to simply raise money or recruit volunteers for Habitat projects, but to inspire others to share our belief that taking action in your community, even through small renovation or beautification projects, can create positive change. Even though I’m graduating, I am sure that this campus chapter will continue to make a lasting, positive impact on society.
Habitat for Humanity holds a special place in my heart. It has not only given me a chance to constantly learn about myself and how I can give back to the community with what I have, but also a purpose and a mission to put service to action and build hope in communities.
My name is Bill Wang, and I am a proud member of Habitat for Humanity.