St. Mary Natchez youth reflections on summer service trip

Reflection By Anna Simmons
Before this year, I had never been on a plane, let alone by myself to a new place without my parents. To say I was nervous to attend Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) was an understatement. Doing new things like this were way out of my comfort zone.
I had no idea what to expect and so many questions. Would the people I would be helping be friendly? Would I really be making an impact? Would I be able to connect with God in the ways I prayed for in all the days leading up to the trip? The answer was a powerful, resounding yes.
Our work in St. Croix consisted of scraping paint, priming and giving an old building a fresh coat of paint. The work was challenging but seeing the looks of pure gratitude and joy on the faces of those who would use it in the future made it worth it. Many of the locals I talked to expressed how much the hurricane shelter meant to them as only two years before Hurricane Maria destroyed the island. It left many devastated and hundreds of people were still trying to recover when we got there almost two years later! To know that helping convert a once unused building into something with a purpose made the work go by very quickly. I wish we could have stayed longer to help even more.
Groups at the camp visited neighborhoods that were still desperately trying to receive help to get over the damage caused to their homes. We were led by Freddie, a maintenance man from the church, who informed us that many of the people we were serving had only just received running water. Many of the homes had tarps for roofs and no air conditioning. Despite this, each home had gorgeous flowers and the residents greeted us with smiling faces and open arms. Needless to say, being able to interact with such a wonderful group of people left everyone with a smile and a much gratitude for what they had at home in their hearts when they left.
In the time when we were not working, we spent time in prayer at a beautiful church, making new friends from around the country and giving glory to God through small acts of kindness within group meetings and mealtimes.
The CHWC experience was inspiring and impactful to everyone. We could all agree that the week taught us patience in waiting on good things to come and to thank God for the things we take for granted. I will never forget my first CHWC trip and the people of St. Croix. The week brought me closer to God and closer to my youth group for which I am truly grateful.

(Anna Simmons is a sophomore at Cathedral High School in Natchez. She is a member of the Emerald Tide dance team, St. Mary’s CYO and volunteers in her spare time.)

Reflection By Parker Murray
My journey with Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) started three years ago when my best friend, Fisher Iseminger, returned from her first CHWC and told me I needed to come on the next trip. I have attended every summer since then.
The camps are a blast; they are filled with fun activities, fun counselors and meaningful Bible lessons. But my favorite part of CHWC is the aspect of service to others. This year for CHWC, we went to St. Croix, Virgin Islands and stayed at a small school, called St. Mary’s.
While in St. Croix, our group worked at three different places. The first was a dilapidated school named St. Dunstan. We scraped and painted the outside of the school and power washed the concrete. The second place we served was a Catholic Church to paint some colorful murals. The third place we aided was a home for the disabled. Our group painted the living room and were able to meet some truly inspiring people there. Because of our large group we were able to get much needed work done very quickly at all of the work sites. This was such an amazing feeling.
After we finished working for the day, we were able to enjoy some free time. Our group of boys went down to the beach and downtown to look around and see what daily living was like. When we did not have enough time to go to the beach or get downtown, we played football and basketball with the other campers from around the U.S.
CHWH has helped me learn more about my faith, while helping others and meeting new people. I plan to continue going to CHWC for as long as I am able and, God willing, be a chaperone for my own children one day. But for now, I am looking forward to finding out where we are going next year!

(Parker Murray is a senior at Cathedral High School in Natchez. He is a member of the Greenwave football team and member of St. Mary’s CYO.)