Over spring break Valpo students embarked on six different service trips to help those in need across the country. According to an email from President Heckler’s, students were able to travel to places such as Central Appalachia, Bioxi, MS., and New Bern, N.C. Students participated in home repair and disaster recovery.
One of the students who participated in the service trips was Valpo freshman Sam Janowiak who was a part of the North Carolina group. Janowiak, whose group was responsible for the refinement of homes for needy families in North Carolina, described the trip as “enlightening and fun.” Refinement included painting, drywalling, flooring and insulating the houses of the neighborhood.
“It was an opportunity to help others,” Janowiak said.
Another student who also participated in the service trips was Valpo senior Lem Cartman, who has been on the service trip once before and led a group of students who were sent to fix houses in Virginia. According to Cartman, about 70 percent of the residents there live below the poverty line and some live in trailers. The group sent there worked with a non profit organization called the Appalachian Service Project (ASP) to repair the homes of the neighborhood such as drywalling and insulating.
“It really helped me grow as well as connect with other people,” Cartman said about the trip.
For Zoe Lucas, who attended the Northeast Oklahoma trip, this was also a cultural opportunity as well as a service one. Throughout the trip, Lucas learned about different aspects of Cherokee history and culture, from clan traditions to basket weaving.
“The construction crew we were with was made up of all Cherokee Indians,” Lucas said. “And just kind of what surprised me the most was finding the similarities between them. Because I was expecting the differences, but finding out that they went to school just like us and had all these similar experiences really set a framework for us to be able to relate to them. And once you're able to kind of relate to a different culture, it makes it much easier to understand them and help them and respect them.”
One day was set aside on the Oklahoma trip for a “cultural day,” where students were able to visit a Trail of Tears Museum and a model historical village.
“[The Museum] was very eye opening and kind of showed me that history is important to keep in mind so that it is not repeated and also so that tradition and cultures can be remembered even in the face of annihilation,” Lucas said.
For Sarah Messerschmidt, who attended the Florida disaster recovery trip, it was a great opportunity to learn more about making an impact and serving others who need help, but also about nation and world-wide problem-solving. And for those interested but unsure about attending a trip for the first time, she would say, “overwhelmingly, do it.”
“I can completely understand where it can be...almost frightening to think about giving up a week of your spring break to go somewhere new with people that you don't know,” Messerschmidt said. “Using or doing work that you really don't know how to do because like I said before, I don't really have much construction experience at all. But it's just such a great way to broaden your horizons and try something new and just grow as a person in learning.”