“Some people study abroad, some backpack through Europe, and some drive across the country. I’m preparing to do my own version of that and bike over 3500 miles in three months,” says Florida Tech civil engineering student Rafaella Rocha.
Rafaella plans to spend her summer riding across the country to earn money for affordable housing projects for low-income families through Bike & Build, a non-profit organization committed to raising awareness for the importance of affordable housing nation-wide.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a house is deemed affordable to a low-income family if the total cost does not exceed 30% of the household’s income. Unfortunately, there is high demand for affordable homes and very limited supply. A family of two looking for a two bedroom home on minimum wage salaries are hard pressed to find many options in their communities.
“While minimum wage is being raised across the country, it’s not nearly fast enough and the reality is that a lot of people are stuck in situations where they don’t have the resources to improve their standard of living,” says Rafaella.
Rafaella knows first-hand how bad living conditions can become when families cannot afford adequate housing. “Back in Brazil, I was raised seeing many families barely have enough to eat because it was a choice between eating and keeping their house. Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to live in a house with water and electricity,” says Rafaella.
Rafaella hopes her Bike & Build experience and the knowledge gained pursing her civil engineering degree are insights she can bring back to Brazil. “I’m studying at Florida Tech as a part of the “Science without Borders” scholarship program sponsored by the Brazilian government. I was selected through a rigorous application process where I won a full scholarship including room and board and a living stipend,” says Rafaella.
On May 15, 2015, Rafaella will kick off her cross-country journey from Nags Head, N.C. “As a civil engineering student, being part of Bike & Build and having the opportunity to acquire experience with American building techniques for affordable houses will be a great professional achievement,” she says.
Rafaella’s pre-trip checklist includes raising $4,500 to purchase building supplies and support the housing projects she visits. “The home is one of the most important things in life. It is where you spend most of your time as well as the foundation of modern life and I think every family in the world deserves a fair chance at one,” says Rafaella.
You can support Rafaella and her Bike & Build campaign at http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/7828