A Binghamton University student will soon bike more than 4,000 miles from Rhode Island to California in an effort to touch lives all over the country.
As a part of the Bike and Build program, Rachel Appel, a senior double-majoring in management and political science, is on the way to her goal of raising the mandatory $4,500 all program volunteers are required to collect. Once her goal is met, Appel will embark on a cycling journey this summer to promote the construction of affordable housing.
“It’s more about getting young people involved to raise awareness about a really important issue, and then giving them control over how the awareness is raised,” Appel said. “When we’re biking and going into these towns, we talk to people about the issue and give presentations. It’s empowering.”
Bike and Build, a nonprofit program similar in style to Habitat for Humanity, sends volunteers to areas struck by natural disaster in order to build or rebuild homes. While Habitat works with communities worldwide, Bike and Build is a domestic program that recruits a large number of participants, usually college-aged, to build homes in eight- to nine-week periods and promote the issue of affordable housing.
Most of the money required of all participants is donated to the affordable housing cause, and the rest covers the necessities for the trip. On her Bike and Build web profile used to raise funds for the trip, Appel describes being influenced by the changes she witnessed in her hometown of Silver Spring, Md.
“Growing up in the DC area, I have seen the devastating effects of gentrification, and as a business student I have studied the financial crisis and housing market crash of 2008-2009,” Appel said. “Now more than ever, affordable housing is a palpable issue that society needs to address.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is no county in the U.S. where a person can afford a one-bedroom apartment on a minimum wage salary.
Appel said that participating in a number of other service-oriented projects and programs gave her perspective.
“It’s really humbling, you really learn to appreciate what you have, and I feel really lucky to grow up where I did and have parents that support me,” Appel said. “I want to give back … I could never be satisfied if I wasn’t doing something that was involved giving back to the world.”
From June 11 to the end of August, Bike and Build volunteers start in Providence, R.I. and make stops across the country, ending in San Francisco, Calif. There is no guarantee that participants will be able to shower each night, and cyclists will begin riding at 8 a.m. and must be at their designated location by 4 p.m.
“If there are any landmarks or tourist attractions along the way I can go off and see them, which is great for my wanderlust,” Appel said.
Appel said that involvement is very easy for college students.
“I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of doing something that challenges oneself and goes along with that ‘finding yourself’ crap we’re supposed to do after college,” Appel said.