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I was the first of my family to go to college. It felt like a natural thing, but I know it felt like more to my parents. They worked their whole lives to send me and my siblings to college. My mom always had the entire family involved in service, so that was something I continued when I went away to school. After college, I joined AmeriCorps for SBP, an organization working in disaster resilience and recovery.
My home base was New Orleans, where SBP had been since Hurricane Katrina. When there was a disaster nearby, they deployed us to areas that didn’t have the financial resources to rebuild on their own. We’d get there a week or two after disaster struck and had to clean out people’s belongings and demolish their homes. They were in their most vulnerable state. Many of them had to stand outside because it was too tough, both emotionally and physically, to watch the work we were doing. I wanted to be there to provide some relief for them, either through meals or stories we would share. For me, it was about more than the rebuilding. It was the connections we'd find with them.
Seeing how our time and effort could produce a visual result was what got me interested in construction and housing. It was also about the people I met. I saw how everyone needs a home to have an address, apply for a job, receive mail and bathe and sleep and just live in general. Rebuilding these homes and working for Habitat for Humanity made me wonder what else I could do and how I could advocate for people who don’t have their voices heard and need the support.
I’ve always loved biking, so right before I joined Suffolk, I rode my bike from Key West, Fla., to Calais, Maine, with a group called Bike & Build. It’s a nonprofit that organizes cycling trips to raise awareness for affordable housing. I met 15 other young adults down in Florida, and we biked all day and slept on floors at schools and fire stations at night. Our team biked about 3,000 miles over the course of two months, and we raised $90,000 for affordable housing causes.
You’ve got to go through the tough climbs.
That trip was freeing. It really gave me the perspective of living and needing others to survive, to literally make it up the entire East Coast. In Florida, we had flat roads for about two weeks, then we got to the Carolinas and there were crazy hills that we were all practically crying going up. But because we had a team alongside us pushing each other, making sure each one of us got up that hill, it made it a lot easier and more rewarding at the end of the day.
And that’s something that gives me perspective in every challenge of life. There's going to be that gratification at the end, but you’ve got to go through the tough climbs.
Amanda Delfosse is an assistant superintendent based in our San Francisco office. A Massachusetts native, she cut her teeth biking the Vietnam Trail Network in Milford, MA, and the Kingdom Trails in Burke, VT.
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