We encounter many amazing experiences in our lives, all of which have their own degree of impact.  But few experiences in my life have affected me as much as being a participant in the Appalachia Service Project.  I’ve participated in three ASP trips with Holy Family Church in the last four years as an adult leader, and I wouldn’t trade this experience shared with my daughter, Jacquie, for anything.

This July, 55 high school students from Duxbury and 23 adult and college leaders piled into 11 vans and hit the road at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning to spend a week serving in one of the most poverty stricken areas of West Virginia.  After two days of travel and settling into our week’s accommodations in Omar (the classroom floors of  an elementary school) we were ready to work.  

Each work group of two adults and five teens is assigned to a project of varying types of repair work.  Roof replacement or repair, underpinning, insulation, stairs and deck building, floor, wall or bathroom repairs and reconstruction were some of the tasks assigned this year.

The experience, however, goes far beyond the work.  Meeting the families we serve, warm, loving people with hardships sometimes beyond our comprehension, is an amazing and eye-opening experience.  Trailers without plumbing housing a young family with small children; a family living in a van while waiting for volunteers to turn a neighbor’s shed into their home; a wheelchair bound couple finally able to leave their home on their own when work crews build them a handicap ramp, are just some of the situations we have encountered.  

The relationships built out of this trip is another aspect that keeps me, and many others, coming back year after year.  The men and women of Duxbury that volunteer as adult leaders are amazing people and have become some of my dearest friends.  The teens have so much vitality and love to share, they inspire me to no end.  Not to mention, they’re fun!  And the families we meet in Appalachia tear at my heartstrings.  I get so much more from them than the repaired roof and tub surround we provided.

So when we loaded up the vans in Omar and headed out on our 14 hour trip back to Duxbury, hot and exhausted, I couldn’t help but think, I can’t wait to do it again with my youngest daughter!