The following is a republishing of my blog post from The Royal Oak Patch on June 18, 2011.

Local Voices

Interact’s trip to Joplin, Missouri, will be a unique and powerful experience for us! On Sunday we leave for our fifth disaster relief trip with National Relief Network (NRN), it will be the fastest we have ever responded to a disaster.  Interact (youth Rotary) students will work in an area of incredible devastation, perhaps meeting some families who are only now returning to the ruins of their former homes.

We don’t know yet all of the work we will do.  The Salvation Army has a relief center that is in constant need of help.  The American Red Cross is on the ground there. We know that we will work on demolition of structures that cannot be saved, conduct salvage of valuables (both sentimental and material), and clear properties in preparation for rebuilding.

The work will be hot, challenging, but also vitally important both for Joplin’s neighborhoods and for our Royal Oak students.  As an educator, I can prepare my students for ACT exams, but there are few experiences that are as empowering as literally putting hands on a problem and making that difference. When so many might turn to apathy or worse, our students will be left to their own devices to solve problems in the service of others. It’s education in the idea of community.

Our 25 students with five chaperones will meet this challenge, they will be changed by it, and they will do genuine good in the world.  I could not be more proud of them.

I do not know what we will meet, even now.  I do not know how everyone will react or what they will write on this Patch blog.  I do know that we will offer everyone an opportunity to reflect in this space, offer some photos, and share them with so many in the community who have made this trip possible.

Whether it is Skanska for donating hard hats, Royal Oak residents who met our students throughout the community, or anonymous donors who just wished to “make it happen” with dollars, gloves, med kits, and dozens of other items, I would like to personally thank all of you.  I wish you could be with us and see the impact of your donations; I hope this blog is a small substitute for that experience.

Follow us here. Find Interact’s work on all of our projects, or follow our brief updates on our Twitter feed at twitter.com/schisnell.

What an amazing start to our summer!

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