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Acting Director of Service Learning
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Arizona: Spring Break 08
This spring-break, ten students participated in a week long project to renovate homes of the most traditional Native Americans left in the US. They traveled to the Black Mesa Reservation, located in the State of Arizona and worked with the Forgotten People's Community Development Corporation (CDC) to help the Dine (Navajo) people.
Students and the Service-Learning Intern, Kathryn MacDonald, renovated two homes, the fist of 84 year-old matriarch Rena Babbitt Lane, and the second of her son and care-taker, Jerry Lane. Since 1966, with the implementation of the Bennett Freeze Act, residents of the Hopi Partition Land, like Mrs. Lane, have not been allowed to renovate existing homes or build any new structures. Common repairs such as building an outhouse or insulating the walls and ceiling went undone for more than 40 years.
Shockingly, this was the first time residents of Black Mesa have ever received help from the Navajo Nation for renovation projects. However, when applicants are approved for weathering renovation supplies they are expected to provide or pay for crews to install the supplies. Residents like Mrs. Lane have no means to provide a crew so the work is often left undone. This is where Eckerd students came in.
Eckerd College students worked from sun-up to sun-down for six days to complete the weathering project. Mrs. Lane's residence was completely gutted, and renovated inside and out. She received new insulation, newly sheet-rocked ceiling and walls, a newly tiled floor, and a fresh coat of paint on everything. The students painted the outside of her house a beautiful sage green and completely re did her roof. They insulated Mrs. Lane's son, Jerry's, house for the first time and sheet-rocked his walls as well.
For their free day, the students traveled to the Grand Canyon and spent the day climbing as far down as possible. They camped out for a very chilly night and returned bright and early to work the following day.
The spring break service trip was very hard work and long hours, but it was worth it when Mrs. Lane walked in and smiled in appreciation. She approached each and every student to thank him or her and offer her blessing in her native tongue.