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A look ahead to Spring break in Appalachia

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Students who went on last year’s Appalachia trip pose for a group photo.

Eion O’Neill, senior communication major, cuts wood with a power tool during his Appalachia experience. 

 

When students think about spring break, they picture partying and having a great time before they get back to school. But some students use their break in a more helpful and rewarding way by spending time in a place where poverty has shaped the people who inhabit it.

Cabrini’s Campus Ministry is involved in the Appalachia Service Project each spring semester. In West Virginia, student volunteers from all over the region work around the clock to repair homes for families in need. Volunteers not only get the physical experience from the trip but also build relationships with the families and go home with a new outlook on society and it’s weakness.

Campus Minister Stephanie Salinis is leading the group this year and is hopeful for a trip that’s unlike any other.

“Basically the students go down and there are a group of people that the students work with and we’ll give them a project to do that usually is fixing a house,” Salinis said. “They also interact with the people down there and learn about new cultures.”

“The Appalachia region spans through a few states and it has immense poverty,” Salinis said when asked about why they picked West Virginia. “There is a lot of rich history there such as coal mining and mountaintop removal, so there’s a wealth of knowledge and natural resources there. We want them to have the service experience and have them get out of their comfort zone and try something new. They also realize that poverty exists everywhere. Not just in other foreign countries, but also in our country.”

Campus Ministry also has other trips like Appalachia such as a trip to Gallup, New Mexico where students work on a Native American reservation and the New York trip where students walk in the foot steps of Mother Cabrini.

Even though the application was due Nov. 1, students can still sign up, but space is limited. Students can fill out the application and pay the $25 application fee and Campus Ministry will review the application.

“This trip is a great opportunity for anyone, not just for people who are interested in Campus Ministry,” Salinis said. “It’s a great starting trip too. So if students have never been on a retreat before, this is definitely a great place to start.”

There are many students that have gone on this trip before and have a lot of insight on what’s going to happen on the trip this year. Senior political science, history and Spanish major  Melissa Frazier and senior English major Tim Rooney are veterans. They’re both Peer Ministers and also leading the trip for this year.

“I was told about it my freshman year and was really sold on it by the upperclassmen. It sounded like a great chance to meet other people and to have the opportunity to see another way of life,” Rooney says. “I think both reasons drew me to the experience in the first place.”

“I had a couple of my friends from my Living Learning Community tell me about it after they came back from it. They were really excited about the experience they had there and the people they met,” Frazier says. “Then when it came time for the trip, they kept bugging me about it and I got really excited about the idea and experience in general.”

On the trip, Rooney and Frazier have helped repair houses in the area. They’ve put up dry wall, put in floors and much more. Rooney shared an experience where he was introduced to a family who didn’t even have a bathroom.

“Most of the houses down there do not have bathrooms and we fixed that,” Rooney says.  “The family I worked with last year, their house was completely burnt out from a fire they had. Their walls were ruined and the floors were ruined. By the time we were done, they had completely new walls and wood flooring.”

Even though the physical labor is tiring, the experience makes up for it in the end. Rooney and Frazier have taken back to Cabrini a new outlook on poverty and find that giving their spring break to help a family in need couldn’t of been more of life changing occurrence.

“The people we meet down there are so inspirational just because of the way of life down there is so different,” Rooney said. “It’s more about valuing what they have as opposed to what they lost. And that’s something you can take with you wherever you go.”

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