While my stay in Santa Fe was cut short by illness, I still had the amazing opportunity to dine, hike, build, and explore the city. I also had the opportunity to have great experiences with other Berklee staff and faculty who I did not previously know. Overall, it was an enjoyable trip that I would recommend to any of my peers at the college of music.

Most memorable was my group’s venture into the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, located forty miles southwest of Santa Fe. Having never been to New Mexico before, these breathtaking layers of volcanic rock and ash in the shape of long spirals twirling toward the sky were remarkable. Known as the “white cliffs,” the canyons offered the most breathtaking views I had the privilege to soak in during my stay. I recommend this hike without reservation to anyone who travels to Santa Fe.

Outside of our recreational activities, working with the Habitat for Humanity crew was a fun experience. The group of young men stationed at the site were both hospitable and hilarious. As someone who prefers to read a book rather than hammer a nail, this volunteer work was a nice change of pace. It also evinced the reality that difficult manual labor in service of human needs, rather than the needs of for-profit companies, can be both enjoyable and fulfilling, rather than alienating and oppressive. The men stationed at the HFH site were clearly not there for the money, nor were we.

Although I do not agree with some of the central tenets of HFH, such as their mission statement to help partner families gain “self-reliance” and “self-esteem,” which recreates vulgar stereotypes about those living in poverty, the program helps to realize the need for equitable and affordable housing. As we look toward the horizon of “hope” that HFH seeks to promote, it is important to not only help those who need it, but to also understand why so many people in one of the wealthiest countries on earth do not have access to affordable housing and other basic human necessities.

This is a political-economic question, not a question of volunteerism.

Adam Szetela is an assistant professor in the liberal arts department. He writes and teaches on issues of American politics, culture, and literature. 

Adam Szetela
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