This summer, Kamila Widulinski ‘11 and Northeastern University peer from the Class of 2016, Carly Krotowski, will take a journey across the country to make a difference in the world. They will spend 10 weeks on the Bike & Build bicycle charity ride across America.
The Bike & Build organization forms bike trips (mainly from East coast to West, but also shorter trips along the coasts) for groups of about 30 18-26 year olds who are interested in donating their time to help the affordable housing crisis in the United States. The organization was founded in 2002 by by Marc Bush who, after leading a cross country trip with the (now discontinued) Yale Habitat Bicycle Challenge in 2001, was inspired to expand and improve their model. During the charity’s first 13 years, Bike & Build’s eight cross-country trips inspired 3,000 young adults to participate. Now, college students throughout the country join together to pedal over 1 million cumulative miles raising awareness for the cause. Kamila, a 22 year old architecture student at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, took some time from her busy schedule to discuss the trip.
We did a Q&A with Kamila
- How long were you at Farragut and were you a boarder or day student?
I am originally from Stamford, Connecticut, but spent my whole high school career at Farragut as a boarder (2007-2011). My sister started there as a sophomore in 2005, and I followed her after hearing how wonderful of an experience she was having.
- How did Farragut prepare you for the adventure you are about to undertake?
My time at Farragut was very unique and perhaps I did not realize at the time what a special opportunity I had living somewhat independently. I had a much different experience than most people have during high school. I think that the discipline I learned through the JROTC program, as well as the hard work I put into cross country during all four years taught me so much about what I could accomplish with some motivation and dedication to a cause. Living as a boarder gave me the confidence to pursue things independently and fostered a sense of community that gave me a passion to help those around me.
- How did this idea of riding cross country all come about?
My good friend Carly Krotowski, who is a senior at Northeastern and also studying architecture, asked me if I would like to go on this trip about 6 months ago when she heard about it. I am very passionate about biking as a sustainable way of transportation and also studied bicycling infrastructure in Holland. Although I have never gone a long bike trip before, I thought this would be a wonderful way to push myself to bike longer distances. My love of cycling is one thing – you can imagine the wonderful sights and experiences one can have when seeing our great country at the speed of a bicycle. More importantly, though, the ability to make a difference in small communities that I have never had a chance to feel connected with is important to me. I feel that the size of our country prevents us from interacting with people from regions I don’t live in. I have had the chance to meet so many people from different parts of the country, as well as from abroad, during my time at Farragut and Northeastern. This has made me even more passionate about focusing my time in far-reaching causes. Throughout my study of architecture at Northeastern, we are constantly trying to battle the issues of affordable housing through research and conceptual design to propose solutions. However, I would love to do some charitable work that will influence communities now, since the need for relief is very prevalent right now. That’s where this trip with Bike & Build fit in so perfectly. I can tie in my love of cycling, my knowledge of this problem of unaffordable housing and the issues that surround it, and my desire to help with my own hands.
- Can you explain the trip in more detail?
Each person pledges to raise $4,500 in donations before their trip. The 10 week trip I am taking goes from Providence, RI to Seattle, WA, and stops in 10 states where we volunteer on 15+ build projects with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, that are working to make housing more accessible. On days that we aren’t building, we bike an average of 70 miles a day, and every night we give presentations about the affordable housing cause and the issues at hand to the communities where we stay.
- Briefly, what is “affordable” housing?
A home is affordable if payments plus taxes and basic utilities does not exceed 30% of a household’s gross income. (For more information on the housing affordability, visit: http://bikeandbuild.org/why-we-ride/the-affordable-housing-cause/)
- Had you done any charitable work while at Farragut or before doing something like this?
As for charitable work, during my time at Farragut I spent most years during Perspectives Week working on projects in the area that had to do with land preservation or community clean up. In college, I spent some time volunteering on an organic farm in the south of France, learning about sustainable farming practices hands on. I hope to be able to do more of this and integrate this knowledge in my work later in life.
- Why is this so important to you?
Due to the intensity of my program and working to pay for college in the meantime, I have not been able to do as much charitable work as I would like during my undergraduate studies, so I think that this is a big way to give back in a way that I wasn’t able to in the last few years. The affordable housing cause is so important to me because I have experienced the issues of high rents in my own community. Boston as a city has the 3rd highest rate of homelessness in the United States, and even before this, rent hikes lead to overcrowding and poor living conditions. People have to choose between paying for shelter and other needs like education, health services, insurance, and adequate nutritious food options, to name a few.
- What do you want to do upon graduating?
I graduate in May, and my Bike & Build trip will take most of my summer vacation, from June to August. After I finish my trip, my current plan is to return to Northeastern to get my masters degree in Architecture. After that, I look forward to moving somewhere warm to work at a firm that is interested in sustainability and hopefully help solve some of the issues I am working to eradicate this summer!