A Home Built With Hope: A Trip To Taos

A Home Built With Hope: A Trip To Taos

Because spring break doesn't always have to be spent on the beach with your friends.

Grace Gagnon

Spring break for college students is usually a time when people book flights with their friends and relax somewhere tropical. Spring break is typically a time to take things easy. Spring break most commonly means forgetting about issues in the world. Spring break is viewed as a break from reality. Spring break, for 65 students at the University of Connecticut and myself, was the farthest thing from a break from reality. Instead, it was the reality check that I needed.

Four groups comprised of 15 people total went to four different places in the United States to build homes with Habitat-for-Humanity during spring break. The locations included Peoria, Arizona, Birmingham, Alabama, Tacoma, Washington, and last but not least, Taos, New Mexico.

In the small town of Taos, 20% of the population lives below the poverty line and the median personal income is $26,000. According to the State Housing Authority, 90% of the people who reside and work in Taos cannot afford a home of their own. Hearing those statistics before deciding to go on the trip were not nearly as impactful as seeing them with my own eyes.

I spent my week in the windy but desert area of Taos, NM. Here's how it went:

After traveling for a total of almost 12 hours by car, then plane, then car again, we arrived at the local convent that was hosting us for the week. My first reality check was when I realized that our home had no heat and the temperature would drop below 30 degrees at night. I only brought one sheet and one blanket.

My second reality check was realizing that 30 people were living in the convent for the week and that the shower was most likely going to be freezing cold every time I showered.

Although these living situations were less than subpar, I wouldn't have wanted them any other way during my time in Taos. Living in freezing temperatures, feeling crowded, and being uncomfortable put me in the shoes of the family who is receiving the home that our group built.

Vera Romero and her 15-year old daughter live in a trailer that only gets heat in the living room. Romero said she and her daughter share the couch in the living room because their bedrooms aren't heated at night. The pipes in their trailer burst on a regular basis because the plastic is cheap. The dryers don't work properly because of faulty electric lines. The bus comes 2 hours before school even starts, forcing her daughter to wake up before the sun even rises.

Romero said that she has been living as though she is always camping for 20 years...up until now, when she will receive keys to her first home, built by the help of 14 UConn students including myself.

"It's pretty exciting to watch the homeowners get the keys to their new house. They've gone through a lot of obstacles in life and it's a heart wrenching experience to see these people cry when they get their new house," Mark Trujillo, construction supervisor for Habitat-for-Humanity of Taos, said.

But, without the help of volunteers, building these homes wouldn't be possible.

"Our biggest obstacle would be the local volunteer base. We have awesome local volunteers, but there are only five to ten that are consistent," Drew Dickey, volunteer coordinator for Habitat-for-Humanity of Taos, said.

Luckily, Habitat-for-Humanity of Taos attracts volunteers from all over the globe.

Trujillo said they work with people from all over the country. He's worked with people from Australia, India, and even Germany.

Currently, Habitat-for-Humanity of Taos builds one home per year, and both Dickey and Trujillo hope to increase that number in the near future.

"There are 14 more lots available here and if we acquire those lots, we're hoping to build two to three houses at a time instead of just one," Trujillo said.

To see actual footage of our once-in-a-lifetime experience, click on the video link below.


Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

For a long time, Goya has been a staple in some Latino households. People carry around jars of Adobo when they eat at friend's houses and packets of Sazón Goya can be found in almost everyone's pantry. Many BuzzFeed lists, videos, and memes aimed at Latinos reference Goya somewhere.

But in a year that just keeps hitting us with bad news, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said that Trump was an "incredible builder" and that the US was "blessed" to have him as president at a White House event on Thursday.

Keep Reading... Show less

I've never been big on casual wear or athleisure. Most people who know me have never seen me in sweats. But, I do have those two or three pairs of sweats I can't resist climbing into the second I get home, the newest addition of which is the extra cozy Odyssey crewneck sweatshirt I got in an XL size to feel as close to being wrapped in a blanket at all times as possible.

In the past several months, I've started to expand my horizons, considering the ways in which I can bring my small wardrobe of comfortable bedroom clothing into the public. I've experimented with topping leggings and a sports bra with a denim jacket to the park, and an oversized sweatshirt worn as a dress, cinched at the waist with a belt when I'm out wearing leggings.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Dress Like Your Favorite 'Insecure' Characters — Without Spending $2,000

We take a look at the fashion of Insecure season 4, and how you can create these looks yourself.


Insecure is one of my favorite shows ever. It really encapsulates what it's like being a Black 20-something, trying to navigate the many ups and downs of life. Issa, Molly, Kelli, and Tiffany are living their best lives in California while dealing with the twists and turns that come with that.

From life to relationships to careers, this show truly captures everything that runs through my mind on a daily basis. The show has a sense of realness and a strong frankness that makes you gravitate toward the characters and root for their success.

Keep Reading... Show less

Making A Food Instagram Was The Greatest Silver Lining To Come Out Of My COVID-19 Experience

With the crazy and scary times that 2020 has brought, find comfort in the one thing everyone loves: food.

The waiter briskly moves towards us and stops just a foot away table, balancing the black serving tray stacked high with the ceramic plates that make-up our dinner. From memorization, he beings gently, but purposely, sliding everyone's orders in front of them and within seconds I'm am starring my meal.

Keep Reading... Show less

Honey has been a staple in my Ayurvedic skincare routine since I was a kid and my grandmother used to make me homemade paste-like face masks by mixing chickpea flour, turmeric, honey, and yogurt together.

I now use honey head to toe — on my hair to make it extra shiny, on my face for its natural smoothing and anti-bacterial properties, and the rest of my body for its extreme textural and brightening benefits. Some people even use it on their armpits for honey's lightening effect on the skin.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

People Are Eating Salads For Breakfast, And It's About Time

As Americans we know we all need to eat more fruits and veggies, why not do it at breakfast?

I first started seeing a dietitian in late 2017. At the time, I was the heaviest I've ever been at about 210 lbs. At the first appointment, my dietitian asked me to record what I ate in a food diary so she could better understand my habits and give me better direction in changing my lifestyle. I did exactly that and returned a week later, diary in hand. After a cursory glance at the pages, she first remarked at how few fruits and vegetables I ate. Deep down I had already known that, but what I didn't know then was that I was far from being alone in that respect. According to a Times article, about 90 percent of Americans don't consume enough fruits and vegetables to meet current dietary guidelines. It's hardly rocket science as to why that is — many of our diets consist mainly of carbs and non-planted based protein. This isn't to say that carbs and protein are the devils; they're both parts of a balanced diet. However, vegetables and fruit are also part of a balanced diet — a part that often gets neglected. So, when I see people on Instagram eating salad for breakfast, I think to myself "It's about time!"

Keep Reading... Show less

Founders Of Color Q&A: Yarlap's MaryEllen Reider On Destigmatizing Women's Health

The father-daughter duo co-founded the brand and has since generated a passionate, dedicated community of women.

MaryEllen Reider

I was lucky enough to meet MaryEllen Reider over a decade ago as a fellow freshman in college. Since then, I had the luxury of being able to witness her evolution from the faithful companion I went to my first job fair with to the woman who is now a pioneer in destigmatizing the portrayal of women's reproductive health.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments