Global crew from McDaniel lays neighborhood foundation in Romania

Emma Hankins and Kelsey Madison
June 25, 2013

There’s a new neighborhood literally taking shape in the village of Beius, Romania, thanks to the international team from the McDaniel Jan Term course, Building the Global Village.

The class was taught in Budapest by Social Work professor Jim Kunz and McDaniel trustee and interim national director for Habitat for Humanity Poland Barbara Thomas. The 20 students – including eight from McDaniel Europe, five from McDaniel Westminster, two McDaniel faculty, two McDaniel alumnae – spent a week in June building the foundations of 10 homes with Habitat for Humanity. 

“The best part was that McDaniel people from all over – literally from 10 countries – participated in what I believe is the first joint service-learning project of McDaniel’s two campuses,” says Kunz, who spent the spring 2013 semester teaching at McDaniel Europe.

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The two-credit course counts as students’ required Jan Term course although it was offered in Budapest over two weeks in late-May and early June. Before going to Romania, the class studied poverty housing in Budapest and central Europe. They toured a homeless shelter, visited a couple living in a shanty on the outskirts of the city and people living in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Budapest.

After a six-hour bus trip across the border into Romania, the work began. Neither rain nor mud dampened the group’s efforts and spirits. Literally laying foundations meant lots of digging and mixing concrete with the help of a Romanian work crew that included many workers who had benefited from previously built Habitat for Humanity homes.

Villagers – some of whom would eventually move into the homes under construction – made donuts, and one man trimmed branches laden with ruby red cherries and offered them to the students. 

The course wrapped up the semester-abroad studies at McDaniel Europe of friends Emma Hankins and Kelsey Madison. After the first day, when the McDaniel juniors sang as they shoveled, they were dubbed “the singing girls.”

An experience Hankins, a Social Work major from Rockville, Md., will never forget is learning to use a power drill while building restrooms for the group of 200 coming from Wesley College in Ireland for a weeklong Big Build to construct houses atop the foundations the McDaniel crew built.

“I was working with Valer, one of the lead construction workers. We were building bathrooms, and it was my first time using a power drill,” Hankins says of her work on the outhouses that ultimately had porcelain toilets. “The first hour all I heard was, ‘Emma, NO, NO, NO!’ followed by a laugh. Then I learned the hang of it.” 

Thanks to McDaniel English professor and work crew member Kathy Mangan, the group from Ireland will find the outhouse walls decorated with the words of famous Irish poets.

“I thought I would give the Irish volunteers some philosophical reflections from one of their native poets to muse upon,” she says. “I also wrote some lines from my favorite American poet, Mary Oliver, and several favorite quotes from Valer, our Romanian crew carpenter on the toilet-build.”

Madison, an Art major from Portland, Ore., was happy to learn the details of how Habitat for Humanity works – how prospective homeowners work on the houses with the volunteers and how homes are given to people who show that they are trying to provide for themselves and their families.

“I think that learning about poverty in Hungary was a huge plus,” Madison writes in her reflection paper. “I loved learning more about this culture that I had grown to love so much.

“I am so happy to have been a part of laying the foundation for the new beginning of 10 families.”