By Sean CW Korsgaard
When one pictures teenagers enjoying themselves on summer vacation, you don’t often imagine them doing construction and repair work for charity with smiles on their faces. You’d never know that looking at the group fixing the home of one Caroline County resident though.
“The kids are smart, I give them directions and they just move right along, and they do it all willingly with smiles on their faces,” said Jay Downing, the work supervisor on site for the repairs, “They’re best kind of workers really.”
These kids are part of the WorkCamp 2017 program sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. The week-long experience—based out of Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg – sees the kids driven out to residential worksites around the region throughout the week, including more than 51 homes across Caroline, Hanover and King George counties.
A local resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, was one of the several local homes to receive help from the group. She had been legally blind since 2004, and has been living with her mother ever since, and the two of them had been seeking help for several critical home repairs.
“I reached out to the Rappahannock Agency for the Aging and Disabled, hoping just for a few repairs on our bathroom,” said the resident. “In the week since the kids have been out here, they’ve replaced our toilet, fixed our deck and added a wheelchair ramp, and replaced eight of our windows.”
More so than even the home repairs, she was touched by the demeanor and behavior of each of the kids.
“It’s just been wonderful, they’re all so warm and friendly,” she said. “A lot of people just look past me, or don’t address me, or don’t treat me as a whole person just because I’m blind, and that hurts. These kids though, they came up, introduced themselves, ask me how I am every morning, cheery and in great spirits… they treat me as a person, and that has been as wonderful as anything else they’ve been doing here.”
That gratitude, according to work camper Catherine Johnson, from Stafford, is what makes all the sweat and hard work worth it.
“It’s my fourth year as a work camper, last year I went to the Dominican Republic, but this year I got to stay a little closer to home,” said Johnson. “It’s been good though, very shady, much cooler than last week thankfully. It’s hard work, but it’s very worth it in the end, especially as happy as it’s been making the resident.”
Deysie Diaz, from Ashburn, says the experience has brought her closer to her faith, but that she got to improve the lives of others while doing it made it all the more rewarding.
“People always seem to forget that before anything else, Jesus was a carpenter too,” said Diaz. “Being able to pay it forward, actively helping others in need, getting your hands dirty doing good deeds… it’s humbling, but it feels really good too.”