Day 6: The Final Day of Work

image 3

Hugs, thanks, and tears wrapped up the final day on the Habitat site today. It was a bitter sweet end to a week that none of us will ever forget. New friends were made, handy skills were learned, perceptions changed, and we helped continue the building process for eight homes.

One night and a seven hour drive are all that stand between us and our own beds and a nice long shower. As much as we look forward to these amenities, the time we have left will be cherished. Very rarely does a group of strangers bond like we have, and we look forward to enjoying each others company in our last reflection and hopefully have a few laughs in one last game night.

image 2

image 4

image 1

Thanks to all that made this trip possible, it has definitely been one for the books.

Signing off,

Erin Dees (CoChallanger #3), Sarah McDonagh (CoChallanger #11), Sara Bindl (CoChallanger #6), and The Crew.

image 2

Today was our third day with Habitat and we were split into two groups, one at the original job site, and the other in South Hill.  The group at Deer Park  did a bunch of odd jobs around the work site including siding,  insulation, foaming seams, and more digging.  We got a surprise at lunch from the future owner of the Habitat house we working on who brought all the volunteers authentic Moldovan food.  It was an amazing experience to meet the family that will soon be able to live in the house we’ve been working on this week.  The second group went to a different house where they caulked and painted the outside of the house.  We were able to have dinner with the parishioners of The First Presbyterian Church we’ve been staying at this week, which was very delicious including green cake in spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.

image 3

Tomorrow will be our final day working with Habitat for Humanity, this week went by so fast.  Hopefully tomorrow will be the icing on the cake and we can pull together and do as much as we can with the time we have left to make a difference in this community.

Side note: The Spokesman Review did a cool article on one of the families who is moving into one of the houses we are helping to build! Read it here!

Until tomorrow,

Sarah McDonagh (CoChallenger #11), Sara Bindl (CoChallenger #11), Erin Dees (CoChallenger #3) and the Crew

Day 4: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

Some times it’s hard to put all our days activities into words so today we’ll tell you our story through pictures…


Shelly and Dees spent the day installing insulation!



Caitlin and Sommer climbed onto the roof to get some sun and add some finishing touches to the siding.



Jose, Sarah, and Pat all got a little dirt digging trenches today.


Everyone enjoyed eating lunch on the comfortable driveway!



Carmon spent the day applying trim and window sills.



Dinner was a huge success as everyone finished off multiple plates of food!

We hope these pictures help you understand our day a little better!

Until tomorrow,

Erin Dees (CoChallanger #3), Sara Bindl (CoChallanger #6), and the crew.

Day 3: Bring on the Construction

The day started with a 6:30 wake up call by Caitlin and Shelly. After making breakfast and packing a lunch we were able to get to the work site by 9 to meet the Habitat crew who would assign us our tasks for the day. We were broken up into three different groups, each working on a different house doing different tasks. Some of these tasks included measuring, cutting, and installing trim, putting in insulation, painting, and digging a trench. Although most of us had limited experience in construction, the habitat crew was able to give us direction and walk us through each task so that we could learn and do them to the best of our abilities.




Like yesterday, today was filled with a lot of fun moments and getting to know each of the members on the trip. From Jose ripping his pants down the back during the trench build, to the delirious laughs at dinner each moment has brought this group closer together.

Tonight we look forward to reflection and an early bedtime so that we can wake up tomorrow morning ready to tackle another days work.

Until tomorrow,
Sarah McDonagh (CoChallanger #11), Sara Bindl (CoChallanger #6), Erin Dees (CoChallanger #3), and the rest of the crew.

Day two: Tile Overload

Today was the first of working as a group at the Habitat store in Spokane. Upon arrival all we knew was we would be working till four but we really had no idea what to expect. We were given a breif summary of how the store works and it’s contribution to Habitat. It is set up as a regular store where anyone can go in to purchase “Home Depot” like goods at half price with all the proceeds going towards building Habitat houses.  After the briefing we were put right to work.

Initially the tile section was very disorganized making it difficult for customers to shop for tiles. We had to use palet jacks to move literally tons of tile from the old shelving unit outside and then back in onto the new organized shelving system we put in place. It was a lot of manual labor, constantly moving racks, organizing tile and lifting boxes.

We took a lunch break around noon. Making our way to the conference room, we finally got to sit down for the first time in 3 hours. We ate our lunches while solving riddles about swordfish, gold fish and playing “AROUND” the world.

The day continued with more palets, tiles, and grout. We continued to organize the tile racks and by the we could all see the impact that we made at the store and how greatful the employees were.

It may not get 2 million retweets but we like to think our selfie is comparable to the Oscar’s.image


We headed back to the church for a quick nap before heading to Whitworth for dinner. We looked like true Pirates navigating our way around the cafeteria. Dinner was foollowed by our nightly reflection where we discussed the question”what is service? How is it different than volunteering?” We reflected on our days work and talked about our expectations for the upcoming days.

We finished off the night by playing “the fun game”  which was suggested by Sommer . It is a combinatioon of Catch Phrase and Cherades and is always garuntees a good laugh.

Overall, the first day of work was a success and we look forward to our first day on a building site tomorrrow.

Until tomorrow,

Erin Dees (CoChallanger #3), Sara Bindl (CoChallanger #6), Sarah McDonagh (CoChallanger #11), and crew

Day 1: The Adventure Begins


Despite the dreaded spring forward time change, every member of the Collegiate Challenge group arrived on campus ready to go at 9 am this morning. Maybe not all bright eyed and bushy tailed, but we were ready to pack into three mini vans and head to Spokane, Washington for a week of working with Habitat for Humanity.

The drive took us first through the Gorge and then through eastern Washington. But what we drove through was not the focus. Our minds were set on getting to know each member of the 15 person travel party. To ensure this, we stopped every two hours and did a car scramble; each person switched cars so that they were with a different group of people every time. Along with getting to know each other, different music choices, topics of conversations, personalities, and moods would come with each switch.

Upon arrival in beautiful Spokane we headed to Whitworth University where we faced our first challenge of the trip; figuring out their school cafeteria so that we could eat dinner. Luckily finding the building was the easiest part, figuring out what was being served and finding a table to sit at proved a bit more challenging. But after finally settling on some chicken (followed by a delicious ice cream sundae) and piling eight people into a four person booth we had eaten dinner and were ready to see where we would be sleeping for the next six days.

Prior to leaving for the trip, we had been told we were going to be spending the nights in a church. Upon arrival at the church we realized we were actually going to be staying in a castle complete with kitchen, bathrooms, ping-pong table, and a gym. Yes, this church-castle has it all and will definitely be a fun place to enjoy our free time at. Don’t worry, I’m sure these future adventures will come up in this blog throughout the week.

All in all, I would say that day one was pretty successful. We made it to Spokane, started to get to know each other, and are now tucked into our sleeping bags ready to rest up for our first day of work tomorrow.

Until tomorrow,

Erin Dees (CoChallenger #3) and the rest of the crew.

Collegiate Challenge

The Collegiate Challenge is a Habitat for Humanity Build that happens during Spring Break. It is a great way for students to immerse themselves in issues surrounding housing in the North West, while also building community Students not only work alongside peers, but also have the opportunity to collaborate with the families who actually receive the home they help to build.


Keep reading to witness Collegiate Challenge stories prior to Spring 2014.

We Are Connected

Friday was our final day!

Today we poured concrete and it was awesome, backbreaking, and fast-paced work. I can truly appreciate the physical and mental toll the day took on me. It’s important to have those days, they make you feel like you are alive, building character as well as muscles. During lunch we all met up at our site and enjoyed lunch together. Sharon our Habitat coordinator in Yakima made us two cakes and showed her appreciation with putting gummy worms on top! I mentioned to everyone: “Hey, now we’ve all licked/eaten worms!” and Cray-Kay (Kailey) responded, “Haha-No.” Apparently the worm eaters like all their glory! ;D After cake, Harry and Kara presented newspaper clippings, appreciation awards, and a mixed CD and or a long gummy worm for some laughs to all of us CoChall-ers! We all really appreciated their appreciation.

Once the concrete business was complete for the day, we went over to 14th and Willow and helped out our fellow CoChall-ers at Kara’s site. We ended in solidarity and took a few concluding pictures. After that, Kara, Ryan, BJ, and David came over to the church for dinner of tamales and tacos as per our invitation and we had a wonderful meal and game of Mafia afterwards with them. We presented puff painted shirts to our guests and they enjoyed them. Also, our lovely leaders were presented with cards all of us had signed to show our appreciation for them. Kara’s shirt said: Karaoke on the back with a puff-painted tool belt on the back! (how cute!) Harry: The Boss Man. David: D-Boss. Ryan: The Gate-Keeper (because he constructed a metal fence the first day on the site with us). BJ: Double Duty (because he had a job at the hospital too).

Later in the night after we said our sappy and sweet goodbyes with our guests, we had a really awesome and unique reflection. Many of us chatted about the impact the trip has had for us and what/how we can bring what we have learned and experienced to those who inquire about it. Of course it’s been a wild, fun, amusing time with all of our group… but I’ve also learned much about Habitat, housing issues, and the goal of Habitat. It is my duty to spread the word (as accurately as I can) to those interested in Habitat/housing issues. This is important so I can express the amazing quality of the learning-service trip to those who ask and who are interested.

On Saturday morning, Kailey and Kellie made us a delicious, gourmet green pancake breakfast with eggs for St. Paddy’s Day before we headed out to go back to campus. Around 2:30pm today we all arrived safe, unharmed and sleepily on campus. We parted ways with the knowledge in our hearts that we will have a reunion banquet soon and that we would be exchanging pictures and numbers on a Facebook group soon. Some of us had withdrawals of each other later in the day and ate dinner at the commons because we weren’t ready to hang out with “real people” yet.

Keep all your spirits thriving,


Keep CoChall Weird: Worms and Squiggles

Day five:

When we asked our site manager, Harry, if our group of volunteers were the weirdest he’d ever worked with, he responded, “Oh yeah.” Then Kellie, one of our co-coordinators, replied nodding in return, “Oh yeah, we truly keep CoChall weird.”

Today has been a truly weird day. First off, three crew members cut down a tree on our site. Kailey (Cray-Kay), Sally (Sassy Pants), and Kellie (newly dubbed “Wormy”) got all excited about killing a tree that needed to come down according to Harry. I was disappointed, but what can I say, I’m a nature lover! As the morning progressed, we started getting restless and a few of us: Sally, Kelly, Laura, Jeff, BJ (another awesome volunteer) and Kailey, all started to get worm crazy. What I mean by that was that Kelly ate her first worm (swallowed it) and then many others followed! I only smooched the worm with my fellow site mate and Fields Hall friend Sarah W. It was pretty adorable. I channeled Katy Perry when I started singing later in the day, “I kissed a worm and I liked it!” We played a few rounds of Silent Football during our lunch break and while waiting for the inspector and a few of us got demerits. Demerits are like punishments if you mess up during the game. Those with demerits had to do “butt squiggles.” Butt squiggles are just movements of your behind in the shape of letters of a word or words the punishers decide. Many of us got the number of demerits required to do butt squiggles so we ended up all squiggling it up for “CoChall Yakima” (I don’t know if they took pictures or videoed… I hope it was just pictures!). After that we were planning on pouring concrete but we didn’t get to because everything was running a little late. Tomorrow we are just waking up extra early to get to the site by 8:30am and pour by 9 or 9:30am.

We finished up at our site early because of concrete issues (haha, that was punny) and headed over to the other side off 14th street and helped our other Yakima buddies with their tasks. We finished at 4pm and some went to the YMCA to shower, some went shopping (me, Sally, Valerie, Tyler O., and Sarah W.) and we planned out the rest of our meals off of our budget! We at a delicious dinner of pesto pasta, salad, and some side bread, and we enjoyed delicious cookie brownies that Sarah W., Sally, and I made together! In between dinner and dessert we had a good reflection about the day and puff painted team shirts! We made some shirts for our site managers/other fellow week-long volunteer friends like David, Ryan, Kara, and Harry. We are going out to dinner with them tomorrow night to a Mexican restaurant and will present them the shirts then! We all puff painted our Habitat for Humanity shirts we received for free in our welcome goodie bags our first day. We included things like  “Yakima 2012″ and our nicknames and doodles on the back of our shirts. The night concluded with a fun game of Mafia and lots of excitement, “death,” frustration, and amusing tension. It’s just a game… that’s just what you have to tell yourself!

What a week it’s been! We have our final full day tomorrow and the site on 5th St. and Willow. Thank you to all of you readers of this blog. Thank you for your support throughout our journey and thank you for helping guide, support, bless, teach, raise the people that I have gotten to know these last couple days. Who knew we’d all be this close by the end of the trip. From awkward car rides to ridiculous jokes, weird accents, singing, dancing, worm eating, butt squiggling, and much much more, we are close now. We are connected through this trip. We will never forget this trip, and this trip with have a positive ripple effect on the service and leadership we involve ourselves with in the future. We are changed (in small ways and in larger ways) and we also have the ability to evoke, provoke, and inspire change within our own lives, with our own friends, and within our communities. This trip has been amazing and it’s not even over yet!

On another note… CoChall Yakima in the news: today our two construction sites were interviewed by KNDO (NBC news). Adrienne (“Stitch”) and Becca (“Narcky”) were interviewed by the news crew but many of their responses and words were cut short by editing. Becca talked about how we weren’t here for the publicity but rather to work with community members and make a positive impact in the community. Adrienne talked about how the family was volunteering on the site as how they and the neighbors were helping out. The two found it a bit frustrating that their words were cut because it truly showed how media sets their own agenda and skews how they tell stories.

Again, thank you all… and another tidbit of news… all our nicknames have been chosen!

Jeff: J-Low, Tyler: Tweety Byrd, Danniel: Cleatus Maximus, Jorge: RPS (aka “Rockie” (Rock Paper Scissors), Tyler O.: Cooties, Laura: Hammie (or Hammer Time), Sarah S: Drill Bit, Valerie: DA Law, Sarah T: Dobby, Sarah W.: Philosoraptor, Sally: Sassy Pants, Adrienne: Stitch, Becca: Narcky, Kellie: Wormy, Kailey: Cray-Kay, me (Alexa): The Beav (aka Eager Beaver), and Lupita: The Riddler.

Open minds, open hearts, and open hands… to fill with a hammer and nail,

Alexa & the CoChall Yakima crew

Hand Ups, Not Hand Outs

Hello again! Rebecca and Adam here!

We realized that in the previous post, there wasn’t much explanation about Habitat for Humanity and about the wonderful work the organization does. We could go on forever about it, but we believe that the video below sums everything up perfectly. For those who are not familiar with the organization, we hope you take the time to watch this video. It is truly amazing and inspiring:

Yesterday, March 14th, after a long day of working at the site, our group was invited to eat dinner with the Habitat staff at the Spokane office. There, we talked about the significant amount of poverty that is in our country and worldwide and about the many situations that can lead to individuals and families dipping below the poverty line.

Today, the group was again split among the two duplexes. There was plenty of flooring, painting, reinforcing, and hammering to go around. We were able to meet more of the homeowners, which was extremely inspiring. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that meeting such wonderful people helps to keep us going and reminds us that what we do has meaning. We were invited to have dinner with people of the Spokane community at the Salvation Army where we are staying. It was a very positive and fun experience with tons of good food and BINGO!

All of us are now getting ready for bed and preparing for another full day of hard work! As one person stated, Habitat does not give hand outs, but rather hand ups – they help to empower people and help bring them to a more healthy, positive life.