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Christian Service Immersion Trips

The Christian Service Trips are about serving those living in poverty and trying to understand what Jesus was asking of us when he said, “Love your neighbor.” The experience is about living together as a community centered on the person of Jesus Christ. In order to do this, components of prayer, community living, simplicity and service to others are all important aspects of the week. When working in the community, we are not there to impose our values and standards of living on those we serve. Most volunteers leave feeling they are taking home more than they have given because the people they work with are rich in spirit, family values, pride and faith.

The Work

We rise early and begin our day with prayer to center out thoughts and motives. After prayer in Appalachia, we have breakfast together before heading out to the worksites. Lunches are packed in the morning and eaten at the work sites. Some jobs entail roofing, insulation, painting, digging for septic systems, framing new houses, vinyl siding, plumbing, etc. (no prior experience is needed, the work site coordinators teach you everything). At the work sites, volunteers are encouraged to visit the people with whom they are working. Once back at the volunteer housing, time can be spent journaling, hiking, swimming, playing games, napping or spending time with friends. There are no TVs or cell phones, though. Some nights we have friends from the area join us for dinner, or we travel to join them. After dinner, we share in evening prayer together.

In Ecuador, mornings are spent touring various programs associated with the Working Boys’ Center. Afternoons are spent in the village getting to know neighbors, tutoring in after-school programs and playing soccer. Several work projects are scheduled for the week along with a weekend trip to a local town.

Our Origin Story

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. 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 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.

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.

Support Our Work

Each year, students who participate in a Christian Service Immersion Trip raise money to support the work of our partner organizations. This work cannot take place without the generosity of our Fordham Prep family and friends.  Each donor becomes an integral part of the program.  We are grateful for each and every donation regardless of the amount.

Our Partners

To learn more about our partners across the United States and around the world, please visit their websites.  

Meet the Christian Service Immersion Program Staff

Nelson Ritter

Class of 1996
Titles: Coordinator of Christian Service Immersion Program

Brian Sullivan

Class of 1996
Titles: Assistant Coordinator of Christian Service Immersion Program