Celebrating 25 Years of Service In Appalachia and Latin America
In the summer of 1994, eight Prep students traveled to a small town in the Appalachian Mountain Region of West Virginia to work with an organization called Nazareth Farm, building and repairing homes for families in need. Those students did not know at the time that they would be the pioneers who would launch Fordham Prep’s Appalachia Program, now known as the Christian Service Immersion Program. Moved by their experience at Nazareth Farm, they returned to the Prep and ignited a program that has enabled thousands of students to answer the call to be “for and with others” in West Virginia, Kentucky, Upstate New York, Tennessee, Mexico, Ecuador and Camden, New Jersey over the past 25 years. Partnering with organizations such as Nazareth Farm, St. Francis Farm, Sharing with Appalachia People (SWAP), Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), Appalachia Habitat for Humanity, The Romero Center, Community Links International, Rostro de Cristo and the Center for Working Families), Prep students have answered the Gospel imperative to show their love “in deeds rather that words,” as St. Ignatius insisted.
While impacting the lives of hundreds of families, our students have also been transformed in so many ways by these experiences. They have learned that Christ can most easily be found when one lives in compassion and solidarity with those in need, that young people can bring hope and healing to places of poverty and injustice, that the persons who are poor have much to teach us about the inherent dignity of all people, and ultimately, that there is no “us and them,” only us.
This school year also marks the 20 h anniversary of the program’s partnership with Appalachia Habitat for Humanity in Scott County, Tennessee. As the program’s longest and most consistent partner, Appalachia Habitat and the Scott county community have welcomed thousands of Prep students into their ministry. Working with Appalachia Habitat, the Prep to date has built 31 homes for low income families in Scott and Morgan Counties and donated over two million dollars to fund these projects. To mark this milestone anniversary, the program held its first ever alumni-only Tennessee trip in August of 2019.
Please share your reflections on your experience serving on a Christian Service Immersion program in Appalachia or Latin America here.