By, Zulema Herrera
The UIUC Habitat for Humanity organization kicked off their first Build-a-Thon event since the pandemic. Amid the alleviated restrictions by the University that allows student organizations to meet in-person, Habitat for Humanity saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness of their cause and connect with the college community.
Habitat for Humanity is part of a national and international initiative to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness through volunteer labor efforts. The UIUC chapter has helped fund and build homes for low-income families since 1992, each year aiming for one completed house. However, following the emergence of the COVID pandemic brought uncertainty on whether they would be able to meet their goals. Vanessa Bustos, the UIUC chapter president, says that fundraising proved to be the most challenging compared to the physical construction of the homes.
“Our base is college students and their friends, families and parents but primarily college students and we are all going through the same situation financially, emotionally and everything” said Bustos, “so it was kind of difficult trying to come up with fundraising events that would be sensitive towards the situation.”
Bustos credits various grants, donations, and events like the Build-a-Thon as pivotal for reaching this year’s $40,000 goal—without it, a family would be delayed their home. The annual Build-a-Thon fundraising and advocacy event was inspired by the Rutgers University chapter, UIUC initially starting it in the spring of 2019. The event invited college students to participate in teams to build small shacks; the quantity of construction materials provided was dependent on how much you donated.
“The purpose of it is to raise funds for our new home but also give our students, our members, a minor glimpse of what it’s like to live in substandard housing” said Bustos
The event served as a collaborative opportunity to build the relationships between members, and potential members, in addition to raising money. By the end, they successfully raised about $5,000 which surpassed their initial goal of $1,000. Bustos says that the pandemic sparked a sense of urgency within the organization to succeed because they were worried a homeowner would be deprived of a home.
“We get to go home to our apartment at the end of the day but for some people they have to live this everyday” said Bustos, “that’s the whole goal of the event is to spread the word and make sure the members understand why we work so hard towards our mission while also fundraising money for that mission.”