School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

What makes a house a home

What Makes House a Home

Graduate students participate in housebuilding with a local charity

Article by Natalia Mukhina
the grad student team

Early one Saturday morning, when most students were still asleep after a hard week at school, some Queen’s grads from the Civil Engineering Department went to Napanee to build a house. It was a multicultural crowd, with students from India, China, Canada, Nepal, the US, and led by Titilope-Oluwa Adebola from Nigeria. They were going to work together with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that mobilizes volunteers and community partners to build affordable housing for low-income families.

“For all of us, it was the first hands-on experience in building and renovation,” says Titilope, the first External Event Coordinator for graduate students in the Civil Engineering Department. “Moreover, half of our team is international students who came to Canada very recently, just a month ago. It was their first external event in a new status of Queen’s grads.”

Titilope is a second-year PhD student with an interest in water pipe rehabilitation. She chose Queen’s for its solid reputation in research. Yet, she believes in the present-day world grad students should not lock themselves within the ivory tower of academia.

“Volunteering helps realize that our education is not just for us. It is all for other people. Essentially, every research focuses on people and makes an impact on many lives. We need to understand how people live,” Titilope stresses, explaining why she is so passionate about promoting the active engagement of students within their communities.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Kingston & Frontenac is part of a national organization that works, according to its mission, to build a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. The charity builds two houses a year for residents in the Kingston area who meet the program requirements. “These houses are not for free,” says Titilope, “but they are made affordable for those who live in poor housing and wish to cooperate with Habitat in making their dreams truth.”

That day in Napanee, the grads worked a full shift alongside Habitat staff and the family that will live in the house. Following the instructions of the staff, the students cleaned, smoothed, trowelled, and painted the surfaces inside the house. “Overall, such duties look more relevant to the civil engineering students than a bake sale,” smiles Titilope and adds that they all performed as a team. She considers the sense of engagement and collaboration the volunteers get as the key outcome of a good community-outreach event.

What makes house a home, aside from a building with four walls and a roof? Obviously, the people who live in the house and give it a personal touch. Titilope’s approach to volunteering is in the same vein: “Volunteering helps communities, but it also helps students.” It gives the grads, who mostly arrived to Kingston from other places, a feeling of community and a sense of home where everybody matters.

Titilope emphasizes that any volunteering experience outside the campus expands students’ knowledge of real life. Currently, she is thinking about another volunteering event for her departmental buddies: “I don’t know so far what it will be, but definitely it will be an event that will be of interest for both the grads and the local community.”