New Jersey students face ‘forced’ labor

‘ELE‘ELE — “Yeah, I had to drag them kicking and screaming,” Jenn Beightol, an architecture instructor at Mendham High School in New Jersey, said laughing.

Beightol was one of three teachers who organized a spring break tour through the Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge program for 16 students and staff from the East Coast high school.

Although its name implies the program applies to college students, Beightol said the program encompasses students from 16 to 25 years old.

Annette Creamer, executive director for the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity, said the group arrived here Saturday, while Tuesday was the first day they showed up to help out.

“We spent the morning moving a condominium,” said Shira Brown, another of the high school teachers. “And, we already had some things selling.”

Creamer explained that part of the group’s morning was spent helping out at the Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity’s Restore thrift shop. The condominium was full of furnishings and artwork that was contributed to the thrift shop.

In addition to helping move furniture and items, the group also helped in constructing a wall in the thrift shop.

Part of the 16-person group also spent the morning helping Gary Odegaard of Gary’s Plumbing with his trenching project at one of the ‘Ele‘ele homes.

“They’re better than I thought they would be,” Odegaard said.

Beightol said she arranged the trip because this volunteer project is a little bit of fun and a little bit of learning since most of the students have expressed an interest in architecture.

“A couple of the students have been to Honolulu, but none of them have ever been to Kaua‘i,” Beightol said. “This is a first for everyone.”

Creamer said the group will be helping through Saturday. Once this group leaves, another group of about 70 people from Ozark, Ark., will be arriving Saturday.

“They’re really organized,” Creamer said. “When they get here, not only will they be working on the Habitat project, they have plans to help some churches and other projects they will be working on.”

Once lunch was taken care of, the group split into smaller work groups with three of the boys helping Odegaard with the plumbing project while two of the girls joined Beightol and Brown in applying paint to one of the houses.

“The girls thought they were going to be digging in the dirt,” said Bob McNamara, the Habitat construction superintendant. “But the boys are doing that so the girls can kind of take it easy.”

Another group remained at the Habitat’s Hanapepe facility where they worked on constructing wall frames for future homes that are earmarked for construction at the ‘Ele‘ele site.

Beightol said she had little trouble recruiting volunteers for this project.

“Spring break in Hawai‘i? We actually had three, or four students we had to turn down,” she said. “But for the most part, we kept it quiet. We’re definitely ready to come back again.”


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