Blogs My Two Cents

Appalachia immersion trip provides valuable experience

By Alex Stanley ’12

THE ROUNDUP

While many Brophy students were catching up on sleep two days after finals finished, nine students and three faculty members made a long trek to West Virginia to help serve the poor and disadvantaged.

I had the pleasure of going on the trip, where we visited towns, both small and big, with the purpose of immersion into the people’s daily lives.

The trip was in cooperation with Wheeling Jesuit, which provided guides, a place to stay and activities to do.

These activities, at first, consisted of much manual labor around the area of New Martinsville, in northern West Virginia.

The group did work ranging from repairing homes to preparing meals.

One particular charity that we worked at was Open Door Ministry.

This was a program that fixed and delivered meals to the poorest in the community.

It was the most eye-opening experience for me, as we saw first-hand the incredible poverty in our own country.

I can predominantly remember one house, which held a family of about eight, I helped deliver meals to. It looked big enough to hold about four, but the enormous clutter, almost reminiscent of an episode of “Hoarders,” gave the sign that there were many more living there.

Not only this, but the place reeked like rotten sewage.

The part that struck me the most, though, was that there was a girl in that house the same age as me.

All of these activities were incredibly strenuous work, but the recipients of the labor seemed very grateful.

After about four days, the journey transitioned into a more educational format, when we traveled to Charleston, the capital of West Virginia.

Here, the group learned about the social justice issue of mountain top mining.

This is the demolishing of the entire top of a mountain in order to mine more effectively for coal.

This works in theory, but entire ecosystems and lifestyles are destroyed in the process.

We met a man who had saved his own land from being mined in this manner, Larry Gibson.

He gives talks all over the nation, and he led us to an actual mountain top mining site near his own property.

This site stuck out like a sore thumb. Acres of trees and lush foliage stopped immediately at the desolate, flattened mountain top.

The terrible part of this was that there were people living at the base of that mountain. They had their backyard destroyed, and could no longer use the water wells that had supplied them for their lives so far.

The long trip finally concluded a day later, when we all drove to Pittsburgh for the four hour flight home.

The entire trip made me feel lucky – lucky that I do not share a house with cockroaches, lucky that I do not live in mountain top mining country and lucky that I can help.