Dear Readers,

Today, Saturday, was our final day in Berekfürdő. We started the day with a nice breakfast, which was a bit different today, because we also had three different kinds of pastry. After we all came together, we started our last walk to the working place. We were all motivated and ready to reach our goal and finish the project.

We had several jobs to do, so we divided in different groups:
  • One group had to complete the sanding on the back side of the house.
  • The next group continued with the plastering of the joints which we started  yesterday.
  • Another group finished some drilling that had to be done and also fixed the Styrofoam in places.
  • In addition there was another group that helped tidy up the work site, tools and scaffolds.
After everything was done and checked by Sandor, we were all very surprised that we finished so early. Sandor and Mr. Brightman wanted us to take a group photo in front of our work, which we are very proud of.

The 10th grade team celebrates the completion of phase one of the renovation project in Berekfürdő.
We had the rest of the day off, and most of us used this chance to go swimming or to go to the supermarket to buy some water and sweets. However, in the afternoon it started to rain, and we had to stay inside the hotel. Later on, some students helped to prepare the BBQ, which we planned for our last dinner in Berekfürdő.  After the nice dinner, everyone presented an award to someone else and made a short speech about it.

At the end, Mr. Brightman and Frau Boos also made a speech about everyone, and we thanked Sandor and Edit for their hard work and the well-organized program.

By Martin Henzel and Marcel Papert

Thumbs up to Carolin who turned 16 today!
Dear Readers,

Day six was our second to last day at the work site, and we cannot wait until we discover the lovely capital of Hungary: Budapest.

At the work site we met our Project Coordinator’s girlfriend who was so kind to help us. There was a lot of work to do. We needed to plaster the joints between the styrofoam around the whole house. Another group took care of the missing details. The motivation from the first day came back, but the hard and exhausting working made us tired, which is why we took a nap in the sun on the Styrofoam after lunch. 

With new energy ,we grabbed the dust masks to sand down the rough surface of the plaster we had put on in the morning. We nearly finished the whole house and cleaned up a lot today. Because of that, we only need to work until lunchtime tomorrow. Hopefully we will reach our goal which we set on our first working day.

During the day, Edit, our Host Coordinator, drove small groups to Berekfürdő’s  townhall where we did a survey about Habitat for Humanity. We were asked about how we liked it and made  suggestions for improvement.

After work, everyone was happy to jump into the pool or take a shower to get rid of the plaster layered on our skin. The majority of our group took another nap before dinner.

For dinner, we went to the hotel across the street. The food was better than the days before, and we even had tasty cake because Carolin turned 16 today.

As every day, we had a reflection of the day after dinner. We made a one-on-one reflection  in speed dating style. The students in the outer circle always moved one seat to the left after each question whereas the inner circle stayed in their place. This allowed a deeper conversation between two students and forced us to share our opinions not only with our friends.

Examples of the Reflection Questions and answers:

    1.       Describe your favorite moment today.

    ·         Julian: Jumping into the pool after work.

    ·         Frau Boos: That everybody worked hard together the second to last day.

    2.       How were you different when you left the service location compared to when you entered?

    ·         Linda: I gained practical knowledge and saw people in poor housing situations which make me thankful about my life.

    3.        What have you learned about yourself?

    ·         David: If I have fun I even enjoy hard work.

    4.       If you were one of the people receiving services, what would you think of yourself?

    ·         Sophie: I think I would feel uncomfortable because I get this help for “free” but still happy because I can live a better life. 

After the reflection the teachers and Edit who is our host leader took us bowling as Carolin’s birthday surprise. This was a nice evening, and we all laughed and enjoyed playing billiards and bowling very much .

It was a long but nice day and everyone went to bed early.

By Linda Roth and Sophie Kappenberger

Dear Readers,

Today was our third working day after yesterday’s trip to Eger.  After breakfast, we were divided into different small groups on the working site. The different groups had to finish putting the insulation on the wall, and we had to correct the incongruities in the styrofoam by sanding the joints down.  When we started working, the whole class was very motivated, and we made good progress.  A few of us started to drill holes for stabilizing the dowels.

During our break, Sandor took time to answer the questions we asked him yesterday about Habitat for Humanity now that we have more experience working with the organzation.  Here are some of the questions:

  • Clarissa and Sara:  Do you enjoy working for Habitat?  Why?
  • Pia:  Why did you start working for Habitat?
  • Sophie:  Who benefits from Habitat for Humanity?
  • Julia:  Why is Habitat for Humanity an organization we should recommend and what makes it unique?
  • Pascal:  Why aren't there more helpers from the village?
  • Marcel:  Are we making good progress?
Unfortunately after the break, the group was not as motivated as before because of the unbelievable heat and the hard work.

After the hard work on the working side, nearly the whole group went into the hotel swimming pool. When we finished swimming in the cold water, which was very refreshing, we went into the pool with the healing water.  Berekfürdõ
is very famous for this special type of water. In the past, the Hungarian government searched for oil in the region around Berekfürdõ, but instead of oil, they found this good and healthy water.

In the evening we ordered pizza to our hotel, but the pizza was not as good as the pizza in Germany. We all ate the pizza in the outside area of the hotel’s restaurant.  After eating the pizza, we made a fishbowl discussion with the whole group and talked about the answers which Sandor gave us about Habitat for Humanity.  And now we are writing  the blog for you.  Enjoy!

Pascal DeBacker, Julian Kreyer and David Lintener

A well-deserved break
Today, the 10th grade crew had a day off work to explore Hungary and get to experience its beauty and culture.  We toured the famous wine region of Eger where we learned about the winemaking process that produces Bikavér (Hungarian for “bull’s blood”).  The Turks gave the wine this name because the Hungarians fought them so fiercely, they thought they must be drinking bull’s blood.  This tied directly to our next stop, the famous fort of Eger where 2,000 brave Hungarian soldiers held off a Turkish army numbering 60,000-80,000 over six weeks in 1522.  We had a tour of the fort, including an interactive view of its catacombs with special effects.  Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch in the city center and free time to explore.  To end the day, we ventured deep into the Hungarian countryside to Castle Hotel Almaty for a delicious dinner and fun and games.  The students noted the following highlights about the day:

Clarissa:  “Walking around the beautiful town of Eger.”

Sara:  “Shopping in the small shops of Eger and being funny with Clarissa.”

Sophie:  “We discovered laws about Hungarian wine.  At least three different flavors of wine have to be mixed together to make Bikavér.”

Carolin:  “Visiting the castle where we ate dinner.”

Vivien:  “Meeting people from Eger and walking around the town.”

Pia:  “Experienced a little town with nice buildings.”

Julia:  “We had a tour through a castle with sounds to make it easier to understand the bomb’s sounds with the big lights; wine tasting with a good and deep explanation; caste, which was built for a married daughter who sadly died before it was finished.”

Pascal:  “To get a perspective of Hungary and the people here.  To discover a  new culture.”

Julian:  “Playing tennis with classmates.”

David:  “Learning new things about our classmates.”

Marcel:  “Playing pool with Sandor.”

Martin:  “I think it was great that we got one day off to make a break because now we can start working tomorrow totally refreshed.”

Pictures by Clarissa Crawford and Mr. Brightman

Rise and shine guys, it's day 3 in Camp Berekfürdő!  We ate a nice breakfast, and then we were off to work. We arrived at the work site, gathered our materials and continued insulating the walls with styrofoam.  Some people traveled to different groups to do different jobs; however, we would like to see more people working with others they wouldn’t usually interact with, which could lead to a relationship with someone you wouldn’t normally expect.

In the morning everyone had energy and put a great deal of effort into their specific jobs like mixing cement and plastering styrofoam to the wall, including getting up on scaffolding to reach the high points on the wall. We all worked for a solid four hours with small breaks in between. We had an appetizing lunch, which boosted us to continue working, however, not for very long. After lunch, work was going well: we had people singing, dancing and continuing to work hard. One or two hour’s later, people started to get over-exhausted from the heat and repetitive work. This caused people to start to die out and sit around.  By around 3:45PM, we cleaned up and headed back to the hotel. Today was difficult but we got the job done with smiles on our faces, excited to have the day off tomorrow!

After a tough day of work we got the chance to relax by the pool. It felt really good having some free time to hang out with the class. As soon as we got tired playing chicken fights in the pool, we decided to lie on the deck. At around 7 o’clock, we went to dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. The food was fresh and tasted fine. After dinner, we stayed at the restaurant for a while to do reflection activities and discussed what we talked about with our groups.

In today’s reflection circle groups, we discussed what we’ve done (Question 1: What?), why we are doing it (Question 2: So what?), and what we want to accomplish by the end of our service project here in Berekfürdő (Question 3: Now what?). A few highlights to the first question were: we began renovating a house using teamwork, showed social engagement and found solutions to problems. The second question: To improve teacher-student relationships, to feel good about ourselves for serving others in need and to build up the class community. The third question: We would like to learn more about the Hungarian culture and interact more with locals, improve social skills between classmates and complete the house continuing with our hard work.

We are having a fantastic time, enjoying the warm weather and glad to be here.


Clarissa Crawford and Sara Özdemir
SIS 10th graders reporting to work!
Today was our first working day insulating a house in Berekfürdõ. Directly at 6.45 a.m. we had a nice breakfast. Afterwards, all of us walked 20 minutes to the house. Upon arrival, we met the woman living in the house, which we started insulating. All of us expected working with the people who we are serving and getting in contact with them. Actually, it worked out in another way because the owner has bipolar disorder, and therefore, she just gave us a smile and watched us working. It was a bit sad because we also wanted to come closer to the culture and the personal thoughts of people living here in Hungary.

Before we were able to start with the work, our instructor Sandor from Habitat for Humanity introduced us to all the safety guidelines. Different students had to do specific work, and the class split up in small groups. Working over the whole day was really hard because of the hot climate here in Hungary. We nearly worked for 8 hours but were able to take some breaks like our big lunch break where we got some food served. After lunch, everyone was tired but soon we were able to work again with a lot of motivation.  All of us did a great job in handling the material and showing great teamwork; even though there were sometimes little problems, we solved them all
finally . When we finished working, we cleaned the work site up and were happy to finish such a successful working day. The way back home was totally fun, because Sandor drove us with his big truck to the supermarket where we bought some snacks and drinks.

Our chauffeured ride home
Soon after we arrived at the hotel, most of us went swimming in the popular thermal bath and enjoyed the nice water after the hard work. Our first working day ended with a nice dinner at a local restaurant with live music. The food was good, and we really enjoyed sitting together with the whole class, our teachers and our Habitat Coordinator, Edit.

Finally, we all reflected in small groups about the day: that we are all a community and even though we do not always have the same opinion, we have the same goal. Our motivation and happiness will stay for the next days. Most of us will try to work every day with other people from the class so we become a better class community and get to know each other even more.

Julia Schneider & Pia Wagner
The Habitat Adventure begins...
The 10th graders, Frau Boos and Mr. Brightman all made it safely to Hungary today.  We had a long day of traveling--airport delays and a long bus ride through the countryside-- before arriving at our service site, the quiet village of Berekfürdõ in central Hungary at around 18.30. 

At dinner, the mayor and deputy mayor of Berekfürdõ warmly welcomed us and shared the background and highlights of their village.  Only 1.000 people live in Berekfürdõ, but over 100,000 tourists visit the healing baths in the region each year.  The mayor joked that our group was far too young to enjoy the medicinal relief provided by the baths but hoped we would find other ways to have fun in Berekfürdõ when we weren't working on our renovation project.  We were all surprised and humbled by the fact that the mayor and deputy mayor took time on a Sunday to welcome us and thank us for volunteering to help the people in their community--now our community as of tonight.

After saying farewell to them, we met our Habitat for Humanity hosts, Sandor and Edit.  They introduced us to the organization and briefly discussed the history of Habitat for Humanity in Hungary.  When Habitat for Humanity originally started in Hungary in 1996, the organization and its service teams built 150 houses in the first year.  At the end of the year, the organization reassessed its approach and realized that their resources could have been used more effectively to accomplish the same goal:  providing affordable housing for those in need.  Over 1.2 million Hungarians live in substandard housing with enormous energy costs.  However, there is no lack of housing; the existing housing just needs to be renovated to conserve energy.  By renovating homes and modernizing them, the quality of life will improve because poor families will be able to save so much on high energy costs. 

In Berekfürdõ, the homes we will be renovating are owned by the local government and rented out to the residents.  The local governments do not make enough on the rent to upgrade the housing, and the residents cannot afford their high energy bills and to upgrade their homes at the same time.  That's where we come in.  Habitat for Humanity has welcomed volunteers from all over the world to Berekfürdõ to provide the materials and labor necessary to modernize homes and work side-by-side with residents to improve their quality of life. 

After our session with Sandor and Edit, we reflected on the journey that brought us here--from when Fr. Boos introduced this project until now.  Many students expressed pride in how well they had worked together to raise money in various ways independently of their parents.  Some talked about the failures they initially experienced as well as the problems they were able to solve and improve upon over time.  As the discussion evolved, students began making connections between the lessons they learned during the fundraising phase of the project and the teamwork we will need to successfully complete the building project here in Berekfürdõ.  At first, it appeared difficult to discuss these issues so openly and publicly, but by the end of our reflection circle discussion, each team member had shared his or her enthusiasm and trepidation about the week ahead.  Tomorrow, we begin work at 8.00!...

Mr. Brightman