by Amanda Wells

After an educational, and eye-opening trip to Laredo, Texas, our service group returned to Williamsburg, Virginia. In Laredo we did our best to assist with a house build in a Mexican and Mexican-American community. Back in Williamsburg, we continued to work with Habitat for Humanity through the Williamsburg ReStore. ReStore allows families from all financial backgrounds to furnish and personalize their homes. Our team helped with the ReStore’s Annual Fundraiser by selling food and washing cars. Team members advertised on the street, while the rest of us interacted directly with the public. We washed cars for individuals from every socioeconomic background, and every customer donated something for the Habitat cause. The event organizers did everything in their power to support our work today, providing all our cleaning supplies and a hearty lunch for the entire group.

I made a point to reflect on a few observable, crucial similarities between the coordinators we worked with in Laredo and Williamsburg. First, the volunteers came from a wide variety of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Our common thread was our desire to improve the community at large. Second, the event coordinators in both Laredo and Williamsburg projected positive attitudes the entire time we worked. I realize I am in a lucky position where I have the time and opportunity to help others. The ReStore and Habitat for Humanity are all about rebuilding and empowering communities. Not only is this a rewarding cause, a local volunteer can see the direct impact of their work in the community. I hope I can continue my work with Habitat, rebuilding and serving the community my community and other communities in need.

My ability to provide my service to others comes from a place of privilege within the local community. William and Mary, along with my parents and family, provide the support and opportunities I need to succeed in the world. The least I can do is try and give back to the community I have called home for four years. William and Mary students do not necessarily see or experience the poverty in the Williamsburg community, but it is very real. A commitment to being an active citizen means realizing and understanding inequities in the community, and that we must act to change those inequities. Branch Out made me much more aware of how local work and volunteering have the potential to lift up a community, and I hope William and Mary continues to encourage students to go out into communities and give residents the tools and opportunities they need to flourish.