By Danielle Wagner, news correspondent
Miranda Prasad, a third-year finance and management information systems student, biked more than 800 miles across the Pacific Northwest this summer as a participant in Bike & Build’s Drift West program. The organization works to create and provide access to affordable housing options across the country.
The News asked Prasad about her experience biking from Portland to Bellingham, Wash., completing service projects on the way
Huntington News: How did you first hear about Bike & Build?
Miranda Prasad: I was at a little party in my apartment and a mutual friend was telling me about what he did last summer. I was really interested. Every summer, I try to do something involving travel and volunteering, and I was really looking to get into biking more. When he told me about the coastal trip, I knew it was for me. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest, and this short three-week program in August was perfect and didn’t get in the way of classes. I was on co-op until July, but I still wanted to use my time before school started well.
HN: What is the Bike & Build program?
MP: Bike & Build is pedaling for affordable housing. They have eight cross-country trips and two coastal trips [each year]. I had to raise $3,000 for my program, which paid for my trip costs and went toward four different [areas of my choosing]. I had to train for biking because our trip was 16 days biking and five days helping build affordable housing units and doing administrative work or anything else needed.
HN: How did you get involved?
MP: After I heard about it, I signed up and applied. Once I was accepted, I had specific research I had to do about affordable housing in America. Every few weeks, we had to answer emails about our analysis on what we researched. I volunteered at a specific affordable housing project in my hometown in New Jersey. I also spent 16 hours working with Habitat for Humanity. On the trip, I also got to pick which projects I wanted to work on.
HN: What were the projects that you worked on?
MP: We stopped at five different places along the way, in five different towns. We worked on different projects for each one. One day in Aberdeen, Wash. we painted the entire outside of one of the affordable housing units. In another place, there was another unit that had to be completely refinished on the inside. We put primer and paint on the inside and prepared it for a new family to move into. We worked in the Habitat for Humanity re-store. One day we worked with the homeless youth. Another day we basically just finished their garden and then cleaned the entire inside of their house.
HN: What were the hardest parts of the summer?
MP: The terrain of thePacific Northwest – lots of mountains. On our hardest day, we climbed Mt. Rainier, the largest mountain in Washington. Sixty miles uphill and only 24 miles on flat or descending terrain. We spent 12 hours biking, covered more than 9,000 feet in elevation and biked almost 100 miles. The view was amazing and absolutely beautiful – it was one of the best days of my life.
HN: What were the most rewarding parts?
MP: Seeing how every single host we stayed with, whether it was a family, church or local community group, was so generous and passionate about affordable housing and wanted to accommodate us in any way because they liked what we were doing. It was so refreshing to see that type of humanity [because] we normally don’t in such a big city. Next year will be even more amazing because of the people we met and the connections we built through our hosts.
HN: Have you continued your work with affordable housing back in Boston?
MP: I haven’t specifically reached out to an organization in Boston, although I have done research on affordable housing here. There’s a big campaign in the Mission Hill area because a lot of people are being displaced from the area. The housing prices have gone up with college kids moving in, and they are forced to move to Dorchester to find housing they can afford; that move is hurting a lot of people.
HN: How are you bringing your experience back to school with you?
MP: I bike everywhere I can – I love to bike. I’m trying to spread it to all my friends. When I go home to New Jersey, I continue to volunteer with my affordable housing connections, and I made some ties there.
Photo courtesy Miranda Prasad