For the 10th year, Holy Names University staff and students traveled to Tutwiler, Mississippi, this spring to build a home with Habitat for Humanity and learn about social, economic, and political issues that impact this rural, Southern community.
“Today is a very special day for all of us. Today marks the 10th anniversary since we started going to Tutwiler, Mississippi, to build homes with Habitat for Humanity and to learn about the civil rights movement,” Assistant Director of the Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement Javier De Paz said at a March 27 event about the trip. “We want to thank our administrators, faculty, and staff for cultivating that passion for social justice.”
Seventeen members of the HNU community went on the trip, including 13 students, Sister Sophia Park, Director of the Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement Keegan Mills, Graduate Student Assistant Maribel Lopez, and De Paz.
“I went there to give to the community, but I gained so much more than I gave. It’s something that is life changing, and if you have the opportunity to go I … highly recommend it,” said Michelle Morgan, a senior majoring in liberal studies who took part in the trip.
Nearly 40 percent of Tutwiler’s population lives below the poverty line and residents face challenges, such as a lack of access to educational facilities, employment opportunities, and health care.
In addition to their work building a home with Habitat for Humanity, students toured the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; the Tutwiler Community Education Center, which offers programs and events to the surrounding community; and the Tutwiler Clinic, founded in 1983 by Sister Anne Brooks to provide holistic care to patients. The majority of patients at the Tutwiler Clinic have no health care coverage, and the clinic depends on donations to operate.
“Most importantly, we connected with other people. This was an incredible learning experience and a very unique opportunity for all of us to serve those in need,” De Paz said.