While many students were traveling abroad or hanging out at the pool or beach this summer, a group of students was in the White Mountains of New Hampshire developing a closer relationship to God and supporting neighbors they will never meet through the work Church World Service does.
Groups of 30 students from across New England gather at the Horton Center United Church of Christ Summer Camp. These students, who range from second grade through high school, come together to explore the great outdoors, develop as leaders for their community and, most importantly, grow their relationship with God.
Each year the Horton Center invites an organization to be their mission focus for the summer, and this year they selected CWS.
For seven weeks I had the opportunity to represent CWS at the camp and speak with the students about the our mission. Each time I introduced myself and asked asked the group, “who has heard of Church World Service or been a part of a CROP Hunger Walk?” Many of them had never heard of our organization or been a part of a Walk. I proceeded to talk with the students about the work Church World Service is doing helping to provide long-term sustainable options to feed and provide water for families around the world, as well as our work supporting communities affected by natural disasters.
I worked with the camp staff to provide the students with a hands-on experience. The first step was to help students compare a 40-pound water container – like the ones that children in developing countries often have to carry home from a water source – to a 20-pound backpack that these students carried each day to school.
We talked about how sometimes there isn’t enough food for everyone in a community. Even though they wanted to take more food in the simulation, that would mean that another family wouldn’t have enough.
Finally, students assembled CWS Hygiene Kits that will be deployed as needed as part of our emergency response program. (Thousands of CWS Hygiene Kits have been shipped to the Carolinas following Hurricane Florence.)
After the presentation many of the students were astonished to experience the lifestyles of our neighbors in developing countries – especially other children the same age as them – and realized how different their lives are because of where the live. Many expressed a desire to get involved with their church’s CROP Hunger Walk team, and others decide they want to talk more with their youth leader at their church and see what they can do to assemble CWS Kits and help their local community.
The importance of programs like the Horton Center cannot be undersold. They are developing young leaders who, thanks to the support they have received, will take up leadership roles both within as well as outside the faith community. CWS looks forward to working with the Horton Center for many years to come!
Adam Smedberg is a CWS Congregational and Community Events Specialist based in New England.