There’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves, getting your hands dirty, and doing a hard day of physical work. It comes with a sense of pride and accomplishment that makes you feel good. And sometimes, the feeling is even better when it brightens the lives of others.

At Mercy Home, we want our kids to experience this feeling, and service projects with Habitat for Humanity provide the perfect opportunity. For more than a decade, Habitat for Humanity has empowered our kids to travel the country while making a real difference in the lives of people in need. They’ve visited places such as Kentucky, Maine, Ohio – and following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they travelled to New Orleans numerous times to help those impacted by the devastation. And all along the way, they picked up new skills and felt the joy of helping others.

This past summer, our Habitat for Humanity service trip brought a group of young men and coworkers to Atlanta. After making the road trip south, the group was matched with a project doing renovations on the home of an elderly woman on a fixed income. This allowed our kids to have an immediate and intimate connection with the person they were helping.

“We were literally in this woman’s home with her and she was the sweetest person on the earth,” said Sasha Weinert, a milieu supervisor at Mercy Home who attended the trip. “She would pull the guys aside and talk to them and ask them why they’re coming here, and they got to share their stories with her.”

Working alongside professionals contracted by Habitat for Humanity, our youth contributed to the renovations by tearing down the kitchen ceiling and painting. For Taiveon, a young man at Mercy Home, this experience was different from the Habitat for Humanity projects he had worked on in the past.

“This was personal,” Taiveon said. “We were in her house while she was watching tv and we were working, and we were like, ‘we can’t mess this up, because this is all she has.’ It made me feel good.”

After three days, the group moved on to their next project, doing renovations on another home. This time, their work included power washing of siding, trim cleaning, and removing kitchen tiles.

“It was cool that the guys got to learn some real house maintenance skills,” Weinert said. “I think that was another great thing about helping someone do repairs on their home rather than just building a home from scratch.”

Though they picked up new skills along the way, the group spent time preparing themselves before the trip as well. Our friends at Walsh Construction even came by to show them how to use power tools and provided some general safety tips.

And while their trip was service-based, it was also an opportunity for our kids to experience the local culture. Prior to leaving, they researched Atlanta and voted on activities to participate in during the evenings. Some of their activities included a tour of Morehouse college, a visit to World of Coca-Cola, and a day at the waterpark.

They weren’t the only ones from Mercy Home who experienced the South this summer. Another group of youth participated in a trip called Justice Journey, travelling to Alabama and Georgia to visit key locations of the civil rights movement and visited Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA, where the idea for Habitat for Humanity was born in the mid 1970s.

In addition to learning new skills and experiencing new cultures, these trips provide an opportunity for staff and youth to develop closer bonds with one another.

“Everybody was paired with a person that they were going to share a room with,” Taiveon said. “Some people had people that they had never talked to, like for real talked to, so that created an experience of its own. In program it’s different – we’re here every day. But everybody was out of their element there, so it was fun.”

We couldn’t be prouder of our youth and coworkers for their hard work and generosity on these service trips. We are also grateful for our friends at Habitat for Humanity who continually provide tremendous opportunities for our kids to learn and grow.

 

 

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