Karen Konkoly, '16, decorates a cardboard house that she and members of the Habitat for Humanity club built for "Act! Speak! Build!" week. Habitat for Humanity is holding a series of events all week long that promotes the club and the provision of affordable housing for members of the Lehigh Valley. (Ashley Omoma/B&W photo)

Lehigh’s Habitat for Humanity chapter celebrates national awareness week


As a part of Habitat for Humanity’s “Act! Speak! Build” week, the Lehigh chapter held several events on campus to help raise awareness about affordable housing and the 1.6 billion people who currently live in poverty housing.

According to the official Habitat for Humanity website, that nationwide week aims to “educate others by expanding the scope of Habitat’s mission from raising a hammer and raising funds to include raising your voice.”

“Act! Speak! Build” was held this past week—running from April 12 – 18.

The organization has many campus chapters across the country at both colleges and high schools. The Lehigh University Habitat for Humanity campus chapter started just last fall. The Lehigh chapter is based around four purposes: building, education, fundraising and advocacy.

“We wanted to provide a venue for people to volunteer and get involved,” said Karen Konkoly, ’17, the Lehigh chapter’s president.

On Monday the organization chalked across campus in order to inform the community about certain government barriers that make it difficult for people with low wage jobs to be granted affordable housing. On Wednesday, they built a small cardboard house on the front lawn to represent those living in poverty houses and to generate interest in their cause

“We want to let Lehigh students know the facts about poverty and the devastating effects of not having shelter, said Amanda Sidwell, ’17, the Lehigh chapter’s advocacy chair.

On Thursday the chapter turned its focuses back toward government policy by writing letters in the University Center to state legislatures.

“The letters are to petition for policies that help low income families get credit so they can mortgage a home,” said Amalia Cote, ’17, the Lehigh chapter’s vice president. “We’re also pushing for grants that help make homeownership a possibility.”

Throughout the year, the Lehigh Habitat for Humanity campus chapter works to help those in the Lehigh Valley who are in need of affordable housing. The Lehigh Valley also has a Habitat for Humanity office in Allentown that acts as the campus chapter’s affiliate. Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley was founded in 1989, according to their official website.

“We want to raise awareness about the effects of poverty not only globally but in right in Bethlehem, given that we have a habitat community right off campus,” Sidwell said.

According to the Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley official website, children of homeowners have a “25 percent higher probability of finishing high school and a 116 percent better change of graduating from college.”

The website also stated that children of homeowners are more likely to also become homeowners.

“Even though right now it sometimes seems like it’s hard to deal with all the poverty in our backyard, the more we can get involved with our affiliate the more useful they can be and the more builds that can go on,” Konkoly said. “I feel like we can grow a lot in the near future and really help out in the Lehigh Valley.”

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