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Appalachia trip marks 31st year

Posted on 09.25.2013

As a part of the University of Indianapolis motto of education for service, Assistant Professor of Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs Lang Brownlee will take a group of students to participate in the Appalachia Service Project in January. Two callout meetings were held Sept. 18 and 19 for interested students.
This will be the 31st year that UIndy has been involved with the ASP. According to the ASP’s official website, its mission is to serve others by making homes drier, warmer and safer for residents of the Appalachia area. ASP plans to find volunteers to help improve the living conditions of individuals and families in this area.

A student uses a miter saw to improve a house during the 2013 Appalachia Service Project. Photo contributed by Madison Atkins

A student uses a miter saw to improve a house during the 2013 Appalachia Service Project. Photo contributed by Madison Atkins

“We’re not carpenters. We’re not contractors. But our role is to build relationships with the families and bring some degree of hope where there is little money. And a lot of factors sometimes are stacked up against these families,” Brownlee said.
This will be Brownlee’s 13th trip to ASP with the university. Another faculty member usually accompanies Brownlee.
During his trips, Brownlee’s students have participated in many projects including insulating, shoring up framing, plumbing and building wheelchair ramps.
According to Brownlee, UIndy has a special connection to ASP because their founder, Glenn Evans, was rooted in the United Methodist church. Brownlee hopes that students can get a new perspective on how to relate to people that do not live the same way as they do.
“Our UIndy students really do take the message [of ASP] seriously, that we’re going down there to be in a relationship [with the families],” Brownlee said. “It’s short lived, but the lessons are for the rest of our lives in terms of how we can interact with others.”
The project can be taken as a class and added to a student’s transcripts as service learning credit. The class requires reading about the Appalachia area and journaling over the time spent there. The group will leave UIndy on Jan. 6 and come back to campus on Jan. 11. Brownlee said that one of the important components of the trip is learning compassion for others living within the United States.
“We come from Indianapolis, and they don’t know us from Adam or Eve,” Brownlee said. “People in isolation sometimes don’t feel like anybody is on their side or cares about them. And we get to say we do care and let us show you in this small way how much we care.”
According to Brownlee, even though ASP is a Christian-based organization, he has had students from different faith backgrounds accompany him on the trip. International students from countries such as Turkey and Sierra Leone have taken these trips. Brownlee said that this helps his students see how service is a value for all religious traditions.
“This is eye-opening for the people they serve as well,” Brownlee said. “They see people who want to spend their time and their energy to help them, even when they’re from another part of the world, and that’s amazing.”
Senior psychology major Haley Tarter has been involved in many service projects and thought that the ASP trip would be a way to continue her service.
“I’m really interested in mission trips in general. I’ve been to other ones, and I know it was a great experience. Just knowing there was one on campus was really interesting,” Tarter said.
Tarter also said that she enjoyed hearing from Brownlee that she would be able to make a difference in the life of a person living in the Appalachia area.
“The fact that he really implemented the word service and what it means [impacted me]. And you’re not just going there to fix people, but you’re going there to meet people . . . and make a difference in their lives,” Tarter said.
Any student interested in going must make a deposit with Brownlee by Oct. 11. There are 14 spots available for the trip, and grants are available to interested students.
“The whole experience is so rich. To see at the end of the week our people that we’re serving with tears in their eyes, and our students with tears in their eyes saying goodbye, because we do grow close,” Brownlee said. “And that’s part of the experience that I’ll never forget.”


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