Shantytown fundraiser demonstrates need for affordable housing

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Photo of WMU Habitat for Humanity.

Event to support Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip to Nicaragua.

KALAMAZOO--Dozens of Western Michigan University students will be pulling an all-nighter this month, but they won't be cramming for end-of-the-semester projects and exams.

The students will be participating in Shantytown, a fundraiser staged by the WMU chapter of Habitat for Humanity from 9 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday, April 13-14, on the Kanley Chapel lawn.

The on-campus event allows students to experience homelessness for a night by building a cardboard city out of boxes and sleeping there--regardless of the weather. During their stay, the students will take part in various educational activities that will inform them about poverty housing in Kalamazoo, the need for affordable housing, and what Habitat for Humanity and student volunteers can do to help.

Funds are raised by each Shantytown participant soliciting at least $50 from family members, friends, WMU community members and other supporters. This semester, organizers hope the semiannual on-campus event will raise $2,000 to support a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip to Nicaragua in spring 2013.

Students must register to participate in Shantytown, which will formally begin at 9:15 p.m. with Don Jones, Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity executive director, giving a short charge to students and reflecting on Habitat's mission. The chapter is seeking to recruit 60 participants to learn about and help demonstrate the need for affordable housing.

"My favorite part about Shantytown is educating students about poverty in Kalamazoo," says John Smith, webmaster for the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity and a sophomore majoring in computer information systems. "Many of them have no idea how great the need is in our area."

Megan Kaiser, campus chapter student leader, adds that Shantytown forces students outside of their comfort zones and into a situation that most have never been in.

"Besides being 'homeless' for a night, students also participate in a scavenger hunt to find basic necessities, such as food, water, a shower and shelter," says Kaiser, a junior majoring in chemical engineering major. "Students are always surprised at how difficult it is."

The WMU Habitat for Humanity chapter meets at 5 p.m. Tuesdays in Kanley Chapel, and volunteers from the University work on Habitat projects on most Saturdays during the September-to-April academic year.

To register for Shantytown, attend a regular chapter meeting on Tuesday or visit the chapter on the lower level of Kanley during its office hours from 2 to 4 p.m. Mondays, 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Thursdays.

Shantytown donations made by check should be payable to UCM/Habitat for Humanity and sent to:

  • United Campus Ministries/Habitat
    Kanley Chapel
    1903 W. Michigan Ave.
    Kalamazoo MI 49008

For more information, visit United Campus Ministry of Kalamazoo or the WMU Habitat for Humanity chapter online. Questions may be sent to wmuhabitat@gmail.com or directed to Megan Kaiser, campus chapter leader, at megan.e.kaiser@wmich.edu or (517) 438-6218.