Thursday, February 5, 2015

Catholic Heart Work Camp: Living through Service!

In the continuing theme of endless opportunities this summer, I had the chance to view service and collaboration in a fun and exciting light this past week! Feeding America Southwest Virginia hosted a group of 40 high school students with 5 adult chaperones through an organization called Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC). They set up mission trips at various cities all across the nation where students volunteer through building houses, landscaping, painting, and working at food banks or other nonprofit organizations. In addition to the volunteer work there is time for activities and games were the students learn more about their faith and grow in community with their new friends from all across the nation. The mission of the CHWC is, “To share the love of Christ as we serve the neglected, brokenhearted and the marginalized in any way needed. Equally, to inspire participants to live as disciples of Christ through serving others as a way of life; and to foster the Catholic Faith of each participant through the sacraments, prayer and involvement in social service (”
The students accurately displayed this mission in their time here by providing an essential service through examining and processing canned and boxed foods from retailers. In addition to food they also sorted through items from stores such as CVS Pharmacy, these items included medicine, diapers, toilet paper, hygiene and hair care products and more. Our goal is feeding people but we are also concerned in the whole well-being of those we serve and these personal care products go a long way in providing for the many needs that all of us attend to. 

In total, these students and adults sorted through almost 3 full semi-truck loads of food and other items. An incredible feat!

On the surface it was a spectacular display of a ton of work occurring in a short amount of time. But as you looked deeper you could see that there was a complex system of teamwork and collaboration taking place in and amongst the organizations and students. I spoke with one of the chaperones and she told me that she came with a large group of students from her church, Saint Eulalia Parish in Winchester, Massachusetts. They connected with CHWC who had connected with Feeding America Southwest Virginia in pursuing volunteer opportunities. In that simple chain of events the collaboration exploded, a church, mission trip organization, and food relief nonprofit working together to make a greater impact for many in southwest Virginia while also gaining new perspectives and changing their own lives.

The chaperone I spoke with described the week perfectly, she said, “It’s nonstop, positive, a lot of work, and a celebration. Everyone just comes together, its crazy!”

The theme of the trip for the week was Be Seen: Live Uncommon. They challenged themselves individually by going on the trip and I am sure throughout the week they saw significant growth in friendships, knowledge, and spirituality, all in pursuit of a life uncommon.

The Catholic Heart Work Camp students were hard at work every day they were here, they unloaded more boxes than we could keep track of! Their energy and zeal for service was incredible and it really charged up the atmosphere at the food bank for the week!

A group of the guys on the trip pile in for a picture with James Andrews (orange shirt), the Quality Assurance Coordinator here at Feeding America Southwest Virginia. James provides leadership in the warehouse and organizes the sorting and examining of food that comes into the food bank. He never misses an opportunity to snap a picture with volunteers!

During a lunch break I spoke to the group about my internship and the young lady on the far left asked me if I'd like to join them for their prayer and discussion time. I said, Sure! It was awesome to join in on the discussion and hear about their experiences; their passion for service and life was contagious! 

The students went through countless numbers of these huge boxes; organizing and examining food and other items is a team effort. The students worked well together in order to get a lot done, but most importantly they had fun! I am sure the time spent at FASWVA and with the Catholic Heart Work Camp will be something that they remember for the rest of their lives.

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. -Jackie Robinson 

Thank you for all your help! You have all made a huge impact in the lives of so many in southwest Virginia. Good luck in everything you do and in all your future endeavors. Take risks and step out of your comfort zone any chance you get, that's where real life happens. Thanks again!

To the students and chaperones, when you view this as I hope many of you do, please comment and share your stories of the week! It would be awesome to have your accounts and thoughts of what took place over the week and it will help to provide for continual awareness of food insecurity issues all across our nation.

For information on Feeding America Southwest Virginia please check out our website!

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