Instead of heading to the beach, this group of juniors and seniors chose to dedicate their time to building homes for families in need. On this year's service trip, students learned what it meant to truly work hard and to be selfless in their actions.
The trip, which extended from August 19 until August 27, allowed St. Joseph Hill Academy to collaborate with Appalachia Habitat for Humanity of Scott and Morgan Counties in Robbins, TN to help build affordable housing for low-income families.
The students were sent to help at four different construction sites, all in different stages of the building and renovating process. Whether they were installing windows, building porch railings and stairs, painting doors and interiors, or adding the finishing touches for move-in day, the Hill team was able to bring their driven and determined spirit to help in any way possible.
Rising senior Simona Bruno had the opportunity to be a part of the team working on a home still in the framework stages. She stated, “It was so rewarding because we were able to be a part of the change and bond with the people we were helping and the workers on the site.”
The trip quickly became one of many “firsts.” On Monday, the first work day, most of the crew took their first swing of a hammer. For the first time, everyone witnessed a total solar eclipse. “It was absolutely beautiful to see. In a small town just shy of three hundred residents, I felt so fortunate to have coincidentally found the best spot for viewing such a unique phenomenon, ” said Giavanna Corazza, a rising Hill senior.
But the day didn’t end when the crew left the worksites; rather, their evenings were just as busy as their workdays. Whether it was cooking for and hosting members of the Habitat community, including those whose homes they were building, or attending the Jamestown county fair, the girls always had a filled schedule. Through these experiences the crew was able to gain an understanding of life in the two poorest counties in Tennessee, and, most importantly, learned that they shared many more similarities than differences with the Appalachian people.
As rising Hill senior Shea Murphy said, “This week taught me that while we may not dress the same way or speak in the same manner, we all have a shared humanity and I think that is something truly beautiful.”
With the help of daily group reflections and wise words from the members of the Habitat team, the students were also able to learn valuable life lessons. Rising Hill senior Hailey Brereton said, “Building a house for someone in need was an amazing opportunity I never thought I’d have. It was so enlightening to learn that the few hours of work we put in each day, as one of the head contractors stated, ‘turned the house into a home’. We were all worried that we wouldn't be able to do too much work on the house in such a short period of time, but we learned that every job counts as the house transformed before our eyes.”
The crew of Hill Habitat X will surely never forget their time in Robbins, Tennessee - a time filled with laughter, hard work and new experiences. While some may view a service trip as one group giving to another, the Hilltoppers learned that through volunteering, both sides give something of themselves. So while the people of Appalachia may be getting new homes, the Hill crew gained lifelong memories, a new perspective of the world, and an enriched understanding of their personal faith.