With this year’s mission trip cancelled, due to a shortage of funds, First Baptist Academy high school students turned their attention to the needs of their own community last month, during the school’s first-ever Outreach Day.
Approximately 80 students took part in the effort, cleaning cages at the Conservancy’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, assisting with home building though Habitat for Humanity and helping to feed the hungry at area shelters, but perhaps the most personally rewarding project was the Widow’s Outreach Project led by FBA science teacher Jennifer Sessions.
“The Bible, in Timothy II, states we are to help the children and the widows,” Sessions says of the project, which also assisted other people unable to undertake various household chores due to age, illness or other unfortunate circumstances. Sessions stated there is always someone who has a need that they cannot fill themselves.
“My students learned to use elbow grease, use their hands, use tools and get dirty,” she says. “It was hard work, but they enjoyed the experience and were encouraged in helping others.”
Before getting down to business, the seven Widow’s Project students began by presenting the homeowner with a bouquet of flowers and concluded their visit with a time of prayer.
The first assignment was yard-related, but students said there was a definite social benefit to the project. While on their hands and knees, weeding the yard and edging the driveway, students also cultivated new friendships.
“She needed help with her yard work, but we also provided her with company from younger people, as she does not get to interact much with people in our age group,” said 11th-grader Elissa Cordero.
Students Sandy Joseph and Syndey Cooper scrubbed windows with soap and water, but it was the homeowner’s reaction that really shined.
“It was really cool to see how happy she was when we finished,” said Joseph. “Her face lit up. It was a great experience to serve her and make her happy. I actually ran into her a couple of weeks later, and she was so thankful.”
Joseph said the experience also gave her a better understanding of the many challenges faced by caregivers.
“She has such a great spirit, even though her husband is going through a horrible situation – she is joyful. I learned from her, and hopefully I will be just like her,” she said.
Alex Chao agreed, stating she had never realized how hard it is on the spouse, who is a full-time caregiver, never having time to do ordinary chores around the house, much less take time for themselves.
“I feel we really made a difference in someone’s life,” Chao said.
At the conclusion of Outreach Day, each group shared their experiences with the others. Students who worked at Habitat for Humanity were able to try out new things while building homes, and students who worked at the homeless shelters were amazed at increase in the number of families utilizing the facilities due to the bad economy and job losses.
Students in the Widow’s Project suggested that Outreach Day be incorporated into the curriculum at FBA, as well as extended to at least a week, to help more families in the community.
According to Sessions, FBA is planning to continue the outreach projects on an
By: Melanie Benfield