Greek Life Beyond Clemson University: Building Houses in Order to Grow Together
By: Emily Gach
Not many people can say that they have built a house from the ground up, let alone a house in a foreign country for a family in need. This past December marked Clemson Greek Life’s fifth annual service trip to the Dominican Republic. The Greek Programming Board has partnered with an organization titled “Cambiando Vidas” each year to provide this service opportunity to students. “Cambiando vidas” is Spanish for “changing lives,” something that certainly happens on this weeklong trip. Cambiando Vidas’s mission is to help financially troubled families by building concrete-structured homes specifically designed to withstand hurricanes and tropical storms common to the Dominican Republic. Almost all of the money that each student raises to attend the trip goes toward construction materials for the home. In completing the construction of a house from the ground up, students see the project through from start to finish, which makes this a very unique service trip. Junior communications major Curtis Wallin, who is now president of the Greek Programming Board, went on the trip in December and expressed how rewarding the completion of the house truly was. “On a lot of other service trips usually you don’t get to finish what you start,” Wallin stated. “We built a house for a family in five days without any power tools. That was incredible to me.” When all is said and done with the construction of the house, the students are given the opportunity to celebrate with the family who will move in and live there permanently. The fact that these students are able to see the project from start to finish and to celebrate what they created gives this trip a unique edge amongst the many service trips Clemson University offers to students.
The Greek Programming Board has partnered with an organization titled “Cambiando Vidas” each year to provide this service opportunity to students. “Cambiando vidas” is Spanish for “changing lives,” something that certainly happens on this weeklong trip.
However, obtaining a spot on this trip is competitive and highly coveted. With over 4,000 Clemson students involved in Greek Life and only 12 spots available on the trip, students must complete an extensive application and participate in a thorough interview process. Faculty members Stacey Garrett, Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Housing, and Whitney Brown, Associate Director for Civic Engagement, take the lead in conducting these interviews. The Greek Programming Board even mandates that no student or officer can attend the trip twice because so many students want the opportunity to work with Cambiando Vidas. The rigorous application process was set in place as a result of the hundreds of applicants the trip receives each year, which only underscores the passion and sense of community this service trip creates. While students provide an incredible service to the Dominican Republic families, this trip also equally enhances the Clemson University community. Greek Life at any university strives to bring people together and to create bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, yet Greek Life students commonly become secluded in their respective sororities and fraternities.
This trip allows students from across the 42 Greek organizations on Clemson’s campus to come together to contribute to a much larger cause.
5 Reasons to go on this trip
Build an Entire House One house. Five days. No power tools.
Fresh Food There’s a reward for working hours in the sweltering heat. As you begin your work on the house, some of the native women be-head, de-feather, and cook chickens all for your lunch. Talk about fresh.
The Nightlife Become immersed in the Dominican culture, and party with the natives!
New Friends Not only do you meet and learn about the locals, but you also have the opportunity to meet and befriend fellow Clemson Greeks.
Melt your Heart “I still can’t believe how different their day-to-day lives are. They had 8 people in a house with a 5 foot-high roof and walls crumbling. There were 3-4 people to a bed, and some were sleeping on the ground. It’s awesome to see the family actually get to spend the night in their new house.” –Curtis Wallin
Written By: Emily Gach
Emily Gach, a junior at Clemson University, is pursuing Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in Writing and Publication studies, as well as a Business Administration minor. She is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina.