Caldwell, N.J., March 31, 2017 – Pope Francis repeatedly urges us to reach out with compassion to those living on the margins. Caldwell University students and staff heeded that call when they spent their spring break on a mission trip in one of the poorest areas in Appalachia.
Students Garima Baral, Leanna Chen and Brooke McPhersen, Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien and Program Coordinator for Student Engagement Marissa Haynes did home rebuilding and repairs with the Christian Appalachian Project’s Workfest in eastern Kentucky.
Baral, a sophomore, had done no previous construction work but was pleasantly surprised to see what they were able to achieve. “I learned that no matter how frustrating and difficult the work gets, with proper guidance and determination, you can accomplish it.” She came away from the experience even more grateful for her life and thankful for what she has.
O’Brien said she was impressed that the students embraced the experience head-on and were willing to give of their time over spring break. “The moment you feel your heart well up inside because you see the homeowner get a new roof, which will prevent water from getting into their home, you cannot help but feel gratitude for the opportunity to give back in our own lives.”
CAP’s pillars are service, community and spirituality, so besides the service aspect of working on homes, the students shared in community with others through meals, activities and laughter, said O’Brien. “We also had times for prayer and reflection and through the program were encouraged to encounter Christ in the work we were doing and the people we met.”
It is an experience that pushes students out of their comfort zones and one Baral urges other students to consider. “In the process of working at your work sites, you will be (come) attached with the homeowner, with your crew and also the group from your school, and that will be the best experience for you.”
Caldwell offers students these opportunities to put into action the Catholic Dominican mission, said O’Brien. “Some people have so little in this world, and some people were given an abundance. The least we can do is to respond to the call from God to care for those in need. I’m glad these students responded to the call.”