Ten-year-old Angel Serrano wrote to Santa Claus last year with a single request: he wished for his parents, Alfredo and Maria, to own their own home. Now the hundreds of students in Brown’s first Habitat for Humanity chapter are granting his wish. Working with other local colleges, they’re building the Serranos a $60,000 two-story, single-family house.

"It is wonderful, it is exciting," says Alfredo Serrano, who now rents an apartment with his wife and three children. A national nonprofit organization, Habitat for Humanity builds houses for needy families and lends them no-interest mortgages. Before turning the project over to the students, members of Habitat’s Providence chapter had secured the donated lot and designed the house.

Rain or shine, the Brown students arrive at the site every weekend with hammers, nails, and lumber. By mid-spring they, working with the Serranos, had poured the foundation, raised the walls, and built the roof. The students expect to finish the project by fall.

The Serrano house is the first to be built by the Brown chapter, which was founded a few years ago by Kuang Chiang ’01. Membership quickly grew from four to 600. One of the first to sign on was Boris Abramov ’00, whose experience as a Russian immigrant drew him to Habitat. "When we came to America we had absolutely nothing," he explains. "People came together and helped us get on our feet. This is my way of helping other people who just need a start to get on their feet."

Abramov and college students from around