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Teens in Action

St Peter’s Teens are in Action

submitted by Craig Salonia, 10/9/17

Summertime for teens in our area can usually mean time off from school, maybe a sports camp to learn better skills, maybe a job to help with some spending money.  But at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Higganum 25 teens chose to take time off from these usual activities and spend one week of their summer vacation giving back. 

These teens traveled with the St Peter’s Teens In Action (TIA) youth group to Plattsburgh, New York to help a community in need.  Through the Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC)  HK teens joined 300 other youth from all over the country to help needy people repair their homes or assist needy volunteer organizations with the work they already do.  Every year St. Peter’s TIA picks a different area within the United States to drive to where people have been identified by local churches as in need of help.  The group understands that there is plenty of need in many communities right here in the US.  The Plattsburgh area of New York has had its economic difficulties due to job loss from the closing of the biggest and oldest military base in the US in the 1990’s, NAFTA and other free trade deals put in place at that time also, and the continuing flight of residents and businesses to states with milder winters, lower property taxes and lower cost of living.   These young, energetic teens come ready to work and do what is asked of them despite heat, hard labor and long days.  They also spend their evenings in community with each other in song, prayer and facing the difficulties of teenage years in our day and age. 

Teens in Action

In 5 rented vans paid for by fundraising and support from St Peter’s Church and parishioners, the group drove up through Vermont and then across Lake Champlain on a ferry. That was a real treat!  Once there, they are assigned a work group made up of teens from different parts of the US.  This work group is then assigned a project or several projects within that community.  Needy people are identified through Catholic Heart Work Camp in coordination with local area churches and organizations that serve the needy.  “I helped paint a church office and then I helped clean up a rec center.” Says Pheobe Corey of Higganum, “The work was hard at first and I wasn’t very motivated.  But in the end I felt really good about being able to help people out.”  Another teen, Kaden Powers, added, “I helped an elderly couple and it was very moving because I haven’t been part of something like that before.” Brigid Loughlin also contributed, stating “CHWC is the best part of my summer every summer.  It really reminds me how important my faith and helping others is”

The teens come back with a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that they worked hard, not to help themselves but to help another less fortunate person.  “It is so nice to see teenagers getting up early working hard through the heat to help someone else.  We often hear the negative side of teenagers, this gives us all a view of the positive side and gives us hope for our future generations,” says Lisa Weis, one of the chaperones on the trip.  The teens also develop bonds with other teens from all over the country and learn about where they live, what is different and what is the same. Brooke Catalano of Higganum commented, “CHWC has not only brought me closer to my faith, but it has given me a purpose.  This summer I worked at an assisted living home and making the elderly happy in turn made me happy and encouraged me to do more service work” The St. Peter’s Teens In Action group is open to the community even if not a parish member although it is encouraged that all teens attend meetings, fun field trips and fundraisers for the trip.  The teens can bond in this way and this makes the experience even more meaningful.  Some final thoughts on the trip from Natalie D’Ambra of Higganum, “This was my third year joining the TIA group on a mission trip and it was by far one of my favorites.  The atmosphere of the group was like no other, everyone wanted to help.  The small group I worked with through the week got the opportunity to help Shelly, a local resident, who had been diagnosed with a rare lung disease that made her have to have constant oxygen through an oxygen tank.  We worked on helping the outside of her house by painting, gardening and cleaning.  Seeing her reaction was unforgettable and I’m so happy I got to help her.  This week will always have a special place in my heart as I get to help others while meeting new people and connecting with old friends.”  She then added, “I can’t wait for next year!”

 

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