This spring, the college’s Gracenotes Volunteer Committee sponsored its third annual trip to New Mexico. A group of nine staff and faculty members traveled to Santa Fe to work with Habitat for Humanity. Here, one of the trip participants, Claire Mumford, shares her experience.
By Claire Mumford
After returning from a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I’ve spent my days contemplating the impact of the Gracenotes Volunteer Committee on the Santa Fe community, on the Berklee community, and on my own views. Gracenotes seeks to provide volunteer opportunities, as well as boosting morale for the Berklee community and strengthening our relationships with our neighbors. My experience in New Mexico with Gracenotes perfectly encapsulates the mission and values of the committee. Throughout the week, I formed bonds with Berklee staff with whom I previously did not know, and these are the relationships that I know will continue beyond our time off-campus. We all felt empowered to create something for strangers and to use new skills. There’s something so satisfying about knowing you made something with your own hands that will last for years to come. However, this trip was so much more than making friends and building a house. This is an experience that has already impacted how I view the world around me, and what my role is in creating a forward-thinking, sustainable, equitable environment in small but powerful ways.
We spent a week meeting new people from different backgrounds, like Rob, our site director, to the Americorps members, local volunteers of all ages, and the families whose homes we were working on. There will be many more volunteers after us, as there have been many before our group, that will continue building these homes. As we signed the house frames, I thought about all the empty spaces that will be filled by the end of the process with warm wishes and caring thoughts from other volunteers. We are all part of this beautiful (albeit difficult) journey to build a home for a former stranger, and we all touch each other’s lives, even if we never meet. I looked at volunteer signatures in another home that had been signed by previous groups, and I felt a connection to them, even though our experiences did not overlap at the same time.
I am so inspired by the missions of Habitat for Humanity and of the Gracenotes Volunteer Committee, and even in this short time after this experience, I’ve used them as mantras for reflection. Habitat for Humanity truly does “bring people together to build homes, communities, and hope.” This was so much more than a construction site—this was a community where we learned, laughed, and built each other up as we assembled the homes. I spent much of my time with an Americorps volunteer, Callahan, and she said her daily mantra for this process was “building walls and breaking down barriers.” She laughed about how hokey that may sound, but nonetheless, this phrase stuck with me. Even as we bent nails, struggled to carry heavy platforms, and took probably too many water breaks, the site director and other volunteers never criticized or yelled at us. We were all there to learn, help, and build, and I honestly appreciate the patience of our leaders. Thank you Gracenotes, thank you Habitat for Humanity, thank you Berklee, and thank you Santa Fe; this trip left a mark on my life that I won’t forget anytime soon.
Claire Mumford has been an annual giving coordinator for Student Programs since July 2018. Outside of Berklee, she spends her time singing in choir, going to museums, experimenting with new recipes, petting lots of dogs, and searching for the best bar trivia in Boston.