True Humanitarian

Julia Perkins

Quinnipiac School of Nursing senior Chelsea True joined 29 others from the Bike and Build organization to take part in a 4,114-mile cross-country cycling trek this past summer. Along the way, True and the other bikers spent 11 days building houses with Habitat for Humanity.

As described on its website, Bike and Build is a non-profit organization that arranges cycling treks each summer to support various affordable housing projects, including Habitat for Humanity.

After her sorority sister Sarah Anscher told her about her experience in 2009 with Bike and Build freshman year, True decided to be a part of the group.

True’s trek spanned from June 7 to Aug. 18, during which she biked the 4,114 miles from Providence, R.I., to San Diego, Calif. The Bike and Build crew took days off from biking to build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.

While some may find biking 4,114 miles to be a grueling experience, True passionately describes it as “exhilarating,” adding that she “never knew your body could do that much.”

For True, biking was not the most challenging part of the experience. Instead, saying goodbye to her new friends was much more difficult. Along with True were 29 other volunteers between the ages of 19 and 25. During the 73 days of its trip, the group became very close.

“You get attached,” True said. “I’ve never experienced so many emotions coming at you from all directions. The people that I met I will want to stay in touch with for a long time.”

In addition to these friendships, True explained that the people she met around the country made the experience more rewarding.

“I was always amazed by the generosity of random strangers,” True said. “Once they heard what we were doing, they came together and helped us. Several times, people bought us meals randomly. That was amazing to see that there is so much good in the human race.”

Yet, True did not mention that she and the others in Bike and Build also represent the “good in the human race.” Every Bike and Build volunteer must raise $4,500 to participate on the trip. In total, True’s group raised $180,000. These proceeds are used in various ways, such as biking expenses, donations to host sites and competitive grants. Each rider is also allowed $500 to donate to an organization of his or her choice.

Currently, True is choosing between giving this money to a New Hampshire group called “The Way Home,” a Habitat for Humanity chapter in Huntington, W.Va., or a Nevada program that focuses on getting youth involved with affordable housing.

True actually surpassed the $4,500 minimum, raising $4,805 with the help of family, friends, roommates, sorority members and Quinnipiac professors. During winter break of 2011, True began writing letters to relatives and friends, asking if they would be able to donate.

Originally, True planned for the Quinnipiac community to get more involved in the fundraising process, however, she said she couldn’t afford taking time out of her studies.

“We have a very heavy workload with nursing,” True’s roommate Madeleine Chiappini said. “Putting in that time in order to prepare for this biking trip was really, really difficult, and she was worried at a point that she wouldn’t be ready for the trip, and I just tried to stay positive and encourage her.”

Despite these difficulties, Chiappini had faith in True.

“I know that she is so passionate about community service,” Chiappini said. “I knew it would be worth it and wouldn’t set her back.”

True’s enthusiasm for helping others led her to new experiences and insights while on her trip.

“It was just a really life changing experience,” True said. “You meet all sorts of people and see the need in affordable housing, whether it’s building or financial.”

True went on to say that she would suggest getting involved with the cause to anyone.

“In every town, there is some sort of affordable housing organization and they are always looking for volunteers,” True said. “There is always something that can be done.”