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August 20, 2017: We're All the Same
In June, I went on a youth group trip with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and the Appalachian Services Project (ASP) to Wise County, Virginia. I had done community service projects with my parents through All Souls before, but this was the first time I’d ever done something like this without them.

by Ellie Martin

In June, I went on a youth group trip with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and the Appalachian Services Project (ASP) to Wise County, Virginia. I had done community service projects with my parents through All Souls before, but this was the first time I’d ever done something like this without them.

There were 40 kids and some adult leaders from the diocese. We slept in sleeping bags on the floor of a local school—boys on one side of the hallway and girls on the other. There was no air conditioning. Every day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., we split up into teams of 5 or 6 to work on renovating houses for families whose homes were in bad shape.  We worked alongside the families who owned the houses and we got to know them and their stories. My group was assigned to help a woman named Linda. She was in her late 60s or early 70s and had a pretty hard life. My friends and I dug a drainage ditch all the way around Linda's house and filled it with gravel so it will be dry all year round. She was so appreciative and offered to help us, let us rest on her bed, and even bought us pizza one day to thank us.

Every evening, we read Compline and shared reflections about our day. I had never done Compline before. At the beginning of the trip I only knew a couple of the other kids a little, but quickly we were all talking and hanging out and I made some new friends. We still stay in touch through a group texting chat.

When I got home, I still felt very shocked about what the people we met go through, when they don’t have money or lose their job and everything falls apart. People in Wise County, Virginia are like people everywhere. They work and laugh and worry and pray, and sometimes they need a little extra help.

I would definitely do a trip like this again, and if anyone my age was thinking about it and asked me for advice, I’d tell them to go, because you feel amazing. You may hate the work while you’re doing it, but you’ll eventually love it. 

Last Published: August 15, 2017 12:37 PM
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