Youth Work Camps -When Service Isn't Just A Job
Youth Work Camps -
When Service Isnât Just A Job
By Jeff White
âPeople donât realize how much fun it is. You donât feel like youâre working,â says Jodie Miklaszewski, sitting at a table in the high schoolâs media center. Over the past three summers she has chosen to give her time to Youth Work Camps throughout Ohio and West Virginia.
Though similar programs exist throughout the country, in Newtown the work camps are the combined effort of St Rose, Trinity and Newtown Congregational churches. Three years ago, when Jodie first heard of the camp from a friend and decided to sign up, Newtown Congregational and St Rose pooled resources. Over the past two years, Trinity and Newtown Congregational have worked together.
As an active member at Newtown Congregational, Jodie took her first trip to Ohio. Her last two summers have been spent in rural West Virginia, performing a variety of services that usually focus on home repair.
Between 30 and 40 kids joined Jodie last summer in West Virginia. The Youth Work Camp workers stay in an area school, bedding down in gymnasiums and cafeterias. There is an onsite cook to prepare the groups meals.
Volunteers are broken down into groups of five and assigned to specific work sites. Jodie has done everything from painting houses to fixing the underpinnings of mobile homes. She recalls a particularly challenging project from last summer, repairing a decrepit chimney while putting new siding on a house.
The program, besides focusing on community service, emphasizes group work, where each member on a team has a specific function. Volunteers are challenged to get to know each other quickly, to maximize the teamsâ efforts. âI wasnât used to being in an environment that forces you to meet new people,â Jodie recalls of her early misgivings three years ago. âBut it was the best way they could have done it.â
Jodieâs mother runs the program for Newtown Congregational, so over the past few years Jodie has had increasing input concerning fundraising and project organization. Youth Work Camps require a considerable amount of money to operate each year. Jodie and her fellow volunteers earned the $8,000 needed for transportation and building supplies through various church fund-raisers like bake sales and spare change drives. For her part, Jodie sold Avon products to earn money.
Besides providing the opportunity to perform needed services for those less fortunate, Jodie maintains that much of the programâs strength rests in making one more cognizant of things often taken for granted, like running water and electricity. The high school senior remembers some isolated sites in West Virginia.
âThere is a lot of diversity. Iâve been in homes where residents couldnât drink their own water,â she recalls. âYouâre a lot more grateful for what you have.â
Right now, Jodie is looking ahead to her fourth Youth Work Camp next summer in New Hampshire, and hopes that other students will want to take part.
âThe program revives you religiously,â she says of the spiritual link to helping those in need. The Youth Work Camps have not only helped Jodie draw closer to her religion â she became a deacon at Newtown Congregational Church last spring â but they have also aided in pointing her toward a potential future career.
Like most high school seniors, Jodie is busy balancing college applications with other obligations, specifically field hockey and marching band. She hopes to attend college either in Pennsylvania or Maryland, where she plans to major in social work.