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New club HANDS promotes service

Emily Schrank | Friday, September 9, 2011

When 2008 Notre Dame graduate Mariana Diaz, a native of Guatemala, was looking for a way to help her country and involve the Notre Dame community at the same time, she co-founded the HANDS organization.

“Instead of creating new projects, we aimed to maximize the impact of existing ones by channeling human resources in existing initiatives,” Diaz said.

HANDS, which is an acronym for Housing and Neighborhood Development Service, specializes in short-term volunteer placements.

“Our most popular programs are during the summer, however this year we will offer alternative fall and spring break service trips,” she said. “For fall break, we partnered with a local organization Constru Casa, which builds new homes for low-income people in Guatemala.”

Diaz said volunteers spend one week helping build houses while directly interacting with community members.

“This is a great opportunity to serve, while at the same time travel abroad and experience a unique culture,” she said.

Notre Dame law student Sean Ashburn, who serves as chief operating officer for HANDS, said the organization heavily subsidizes the trips to make them more affordable for students.

The organization also has a number of internship positions available for interested students, Ashburn said.

“HANDS is a great way to give back, but also learn marketable skills and gain real world experience that employers are looking for,” he said.

Ashburn said he would encourage anyone interested in HANDS to contact the organization.

“It’s an exciting group to be a part of,” Ashburn said. “Since we are still a new organization, there is a lot of passion and energy in what we do. We are still learning and shaping what our organization will look like for years to come.”