By Liz Mazorowicz
A few summers ago, my friend rode her bike across the country. She had a blog, some awesome Instagram pictures and incredible stories to tell about her summer with an organization called Bike & Build. As I followed her story, I realized that this was something that I wanted to be a part of. Beyond a good story, breathtaking views and an experience that the word ‘adventure’ seems too weak to describe, something about it really caught my attention. This year, I applied to spend my summer with Bike & Build.
Bike & Build is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cross-country bike rides that advocate and serve for the issue of affordable housing. Bike & Build sends teams of young people to ride a bike from the east to west coast and work with affordable housing organizations to build homes along the way.
Before I applied I had a fair amount of hesitation. To start, I didn’t even own a bike. I do know how to ride one, but I imagine it takes more than the ability to balance to be successful on a cross-country bike tour. In May, I graduate with a master’s degree in college student affairs. A summer with Bike & Build means a unique job search and not adhering to the traditional goal of finding a job that starts the day after graduation. With the help of friends, family, coworkers and any stranger who would listen, it became obvious to me that any hesitation I had about Bike & Build would not be worth giving up the opportunity to be a part of a summer that aligned so closely with many values I stand for.
Because of a variety of factors, people nationwide face the issue of limited access to affordable housing. Bike & Build works specifically to create a place where fair and decent housing is available for all individuals.
Service is my go-to avenue to understand communities, social issues and how to create change. This need for understanding is coupled with a fascination for how non-profit organizations work. By nature, non-profit organizations are “gap-fillers.” Non-profits see gaps defined by a community and create programs or resources to fill that gap.
I work as the graduate assistant for civic engagement in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement. In my position, I oversee our Sharks and Service Program and try to align students with an opportunity to explore how service can help people understand, fill or even eliminate a “gap” that they observe in the world. I know that every person has the capacity to create change, and for likeminded groups the odds are even greater. That understanding guides my work every day. This summer will give me a concrete opportunity to put my passion in motion and spend three months dedicated to volunteering and advocating for positive change.
In late December, days before the new year, I got an email welcoming me to the Central United States (CUS) Route for Bike & Build 2017.
My team and I have a lot of work to do before we meet in May. Bike & Build has built a comprehensive program to prepare riders to bike coast-to-coast, become educated on an important issue and get excited for the summer of a lifetime.
There are some non-negotiable pre-trip requirements that all riders must complete before the start of their route. To be eligible to start the CUS route at the end of May, I have to fundraise $4,800, train 500 miles, complete 10 hours of volunteering with an organization that addresses the issue of affordable housing and participate in pre-trip curriculum surrounding the issue. In short, my preparation for this adventure is the most terrifying to-do list I have ever seen. Even though this list scares me, all the nervous energy I have about this summer is quickly crushed by a wave of pure excitement when I think about three months, 3,875 miles and one summer peddling for affordable housing.
I could not be more thankful to my friend for sharing her story or to the internet for allowing me to creep my way into conversations that led to one accepted application for an incredible summer. What is soon to be the best adventure I have ever had started with a gut feeling while reading a blog.
To learn more about Bike & Build and what my summer will look like or help me reach my fundraising goal go to bikeandbuild.org and check out the Central United States (CUS) Cross-Country Route. If you have any interest in sharing this journey with me, find my blog at lizmaz.wordpress.com.