SCUGOG: High school students from across North America once again converged on Durham Region last week to do some good, as part of an initiative coordinated by the Hope Christian Reformed Church in Prince Albert.
SERVE is a Youth Unlimited initiative, which sends high school age students out to revitalize communities by volunteering and performing acts of kindness.
“SERVE is an opportunity to get people out of their comfort zone, out of the lifestyle they are normally living in, and help others, and through the process learn more about themselves and their place in this world beyond their own little world,” said coordinator Ron Bruinsma.
33 students, from grades 9 to 12, and eight adult leaders, took part in this year’s initiative hosted by the Port Perry church. The youth came from as far as Fredericton, New Brunswick, and Montague, Michigan, as well as from areas such as Aylmer and Ancaster, Ontario.
The students spent the week carrying out odd jobs and volunteering their time, with organizations such as Windreach Farms, Community Living, and Christian Horizons.
Coordinator Pat Sheridan said they have heard many positive things, from organizations SERVE partners with.
“They (these organizations) love it. Most of them we have gone to every year. They look forward to us coming,” she said. “We help them get a lot of things done they wouldn’t normally be able to do, so they really appreciate it.”
The students slept at the Port Perry church and Trinity Grace Academy.
This is the seventh time Hope Christian Reformed Church has hosted a SERVE project. The theme for this year’s initiative was, “Make change, Be change.”
“You can go out and make a change in the world, but you can’t do that without being changed yourself,” Mr. Bruinsma explained.
He added that the connections people make with others are more important than the work itself.
“If you spend an afternoon talking with someone, learning more about each other, and the work doesn’t get done, that’s fine. We feel relationships with people are more important than getting the actual work done,” Mr. Bruinsma said.
Pastor Bernhard VanderVlis said SERVE is an “eye opening experience” for the students who volunteer, and added that it gives them a chance to connect with what they believe.
This year’s project was, Aylmer student, Alyssa Braun’s first experience in the SERVE initiative.
“It has been so much fun, and I’ve made so many great friends,” she said. “It has just been great to be able to help out in the community, and it just feels amazing to be here,” Ms. Braun said.
Student Austin VandenBrink, also from Aylmer, told The Standard, he enjoyed making people happy during this initiative.
“Its such a great experience, because you get to help around the community and see smiles at the end of the day, it’s a good feeling,” he said.