Students from Ireland, Chicago build for Bay-Waveland Habitat for - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Students from Ireland, Chicago build for Bay-Waveland Habitat for Humanity

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Union Street in Bay St. Louis looks like any other neighborhood: front porches, back yards, sloping roof lines.  However, this neighborhood had a special beginning.

Every house on Union Street was built by the Bay-Waveland area Habitat for Humanity.   

"This is where it started for us, with our experience of rebuilding the gulf," said Habitat volunteer Deb Ogle- Thompson

The Bay-Waveland Habitat uses both Katrina relief funds and donations to fund the building of each house.  The neighborhood has 42 houses in total, but Habitat issued a new challenge: build five houses in five days. 

Five groups totaling 130 people answered the call.  Construction began Monday morning.

"We have a group from Ireland, we have a group from Illinois, we have a group from Pennsylvania, we have a group from Los Angeles, California, and they've all come together this week to build these five houses," said area director of communications Dave Walker.

Several of the volunteers are repeat builders, including one group from Chicago who has sent six teams to the Union Street houses. 

"We look at habitat as some of our best friends we get to reunite with every year," said Chicago native Ogle- Thompson. "I come here and see friends.  There just big hugs, big smiles and for a community that's been through so much and continues to go through so much, to see the smiles on the faces of my friends, you can't get any better than that."

Ogle- Thompson even met her husband on one of her many Habitat trips to South Mississippi.

Of the 130 builders, 22 are students all the way from Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The group is in Bay St. Louis for the second time as part of Project Children.

The Irish program allows youth to spend a summer interning in America.  While the internships carry students all over the country, their first week is always dedicated to Habitat. 

"Habitat is perfect for our program because the American people have given so much taking our young kids in, it's a way of giving back." said Project Children group leader Denis Mulcahy. 

To the students, seeing what they can accomplish and how they can help others helps them to build relationships with as well as homes.

"It's a wee bit emotional too because you don't realize the emotional effect that Katrina had on people until you get here and you get here and its just nice to meet the person whose going to be able to live in the home and it drives you to work harder and work faster to achieve their home which is amazing."   

To qualify for a habitat home, families or  individuals must meet three criteria including helping to build the house and ability to pay for the home at a low rate. 

The Union Street houses will be completed Friday afternoon.

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