CommServe Trip Repairs Homes, Builds Relationships

Shingles flew off the roof, hammers pounded incessantly and a chorus of girls belted Britney Spears songs. 35 Andover students and 10 faculty members traveled to John’s Island off the coast of South Carolina to repair homes and make new friends over the beginning of their spring break. Led by Reverend Michael Ebner the team set out to repair homes for families who couldn’t afford to do so themselves, through the Rural Missions program. As one of the faculty advisors on the trip, Leon Modeste, said, “There is nothing quite so satisfying as a group of diverse people coming together and actually doing something. Not a bunch of theorists in a committee thinking, planning and chatting about doing something but ‘doers’ accomplishing something.” He continued, “So…’less wailing and more nailing’…for the greater good. We did that.” Students helped to build, repair, restore, and improve the community of John’s Island. Teammates were rotated through worksites to fix roofs, repaint houses, and to a build a wheelchair ramp. Students were encouraged to reflect on their experiences each night, as the group discussed personal interactions with the homeowners, the disparity between living conditions on John’s Island and the nearby resort islands, and the island’s sense of community. Participants throughout the trip delighted in the opportunity to get to know a wide variety of their fellow Andover students. Skylar Washburn ’05, who was one of only three returning members of the trip, said, “Whether it was in late night chats in the girls’ or boys’ rooms, singing in the rain on a rooftop, or nightly gatherings on the ocean-view deck at the house, I found new friends in completely unexpected places. [Going to South Carolina] is one of the highlights of my entire Andover career.” After returning from the worksite at around 4:00 every afternoon the group had time to get to know their peers and teachers in a while new light. Said Katie Koh ’05, “The bonding and time we spent with each other was just so different, whether it was building roofs in the rain or just talking and playing cards at night.” “After only a week, I feel closer with many people on the trip than I do with people that I’ve known since coming to Andover as a freshman. During the trip alone I think I added a whole new support network to my life at Andover,” said Catherine Crooke ’07 Brendan McManus ’05, one of the student participants said, “Getting far off campus and driving for hours packed in a rally wagon allows students and faculty to get to know (almost too well) members of the Andover community that they might otherwise never come across.” Students were also immersed in the culture of the island. They attended a worship service Sunday morning, joining members of the community in energetic song and prayer. The community welcomed the group, preparing a home-cooked meal of fried chicken and fresh seafood for the tired students. Elderly women of the community sang praise songs while the students devoured the meal. Taking advantage of the close proximity to Charleston the group visited the capital city after a half day of work in the middle of the week. Students had an evening to themselves to explore the city, visiting the former slave market, and the pier. Some devoured dripping ribs at “Sticky Fingers” while others enjoyed homemade fudge from the candy shop. Those who travelled back to Andover with the group also enjoyed a night on the town in Baltimore to shop and explore. Overall, the trip was considered a success as the group accomplished their goals: re-shingling a roof for Mrs. Ransom, an elderly women with a passion for gardening, painting and roofing Ms. Pickney’s house, and building a wheel chair ramp for Ms. Chisolm, a 94 year old woman recently wheel-chair bound.