Representatives from Goshen’s Service Club are doing something a bit different for their upcoming fall break.Juniors Meredith Satchwell, Katie Yoder, Mary O’Connell, Annika Detweiler along with sophomore Lizeth Abad will be volunteering for Sharing With Appalachian People (SWAP) in Elkhorn, West Virginia. The group will be gone from Oct. 14-Oct. 20.
SWAP is a home repair ministry based in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, and is a program of the Mennonite Central Committee’s Great Lakes Region. Groups can join the organization for approximately a week of service, volunteering to help fix homes in a disadvantaged region of the country while also getting to know the people of Appalachia. Yoder was a staff member with SWAP in the summer of 2016 and proposed the trip to Service Club.
“It’s been a very authentic experience of ‘bridge-building’, working with Swap. Appalachia...it’s a completely different culture than the Midwest,” said Yoder. “I had really been hoping to give people here at GC an opportunity to go, and Service Club has made that possible.”
According to Service Club leader Satchwell, a former volunteer with SWAP, the group will be helping close down the organization’s location in Elkhorn and will aid in moving materials and tools to a different location in Kimball, W.VA. This is an atypical SWAP task as the group will not be working with a home-owner, but the service is still much needed.
“It’s where they can use our help during this season so we are glad to do it!” said Satchwell.
While the trip will be longer than the usual work week, Satchwell notes that the time they will serve is not actually that long.
“The reality often is that the impact we make is just a tiny helping hand in the millions it takes to make a difference. It’s going to be difficult not to let ourselves feel bad about not being able to do more,” Satchwell said.
However, she can see the significance in the impact the group will be able to make.
“It takes years to see a drastic difference, but it’s the little difference that start to add up to reveal the big picture,” she said.
McDowell County, where the group will be stationed, is one of the poorest counties in the nation. Like much of Appalachia, its economy has historically relied on the coal industry. The culture of Appalachia is quite different from the Midwest. While this could provide challenges in interacting with locals, Service Club members also point to the value their upcoming experience will have in learning and being pushed out of comfort zones.
“I’m excited for the chance to return to Appalachia and engage with the people there,” said Yoder. Despite not having the typical SWAP service assignment, the group will still be immersed in Appalachian culture.
“I’m excited for the group to get to know each other better. It’s a great organization and we wanted to spend our fall break doing something exciting and worthwhile,” said Satchwell.