Abby VanHaitsma is a freshman at ROHS. This is her first disaster relief trip.


This trip has definitely been the most rewarding trip I’ve ever been on. I got to do so many things in one week that helped someone in a drastic way. I was on the work site that was taking down a brick house to nothing so that the homeowner could rebuild his house. The homeowner came to our site multiple times, but I did not get a chance to speak with him. He mostly observed our work, and shared a few side comments with some of the chaperones. Occasionally, he would also offer some advice on how to do some of the jobs we were doing. I can’t even imagine how he felt watching us, though. He was watching his own home being torn apart!

Even though he probably felt some sadness, I know that the work I did must have been important to him and his family. I think the hardest work I did down there was hauling buckets of bricks down to the curb. The first few buckets were fine, but then my arms started to really feel it! Along with carrying the bricks, I also got to use a sledgehammer for the first time to knock down some of those bricks. Doing that also takes some arm strength and endurance.

Some other work I did was taking nails out of 2×4’s for the homeowner to reuse for his new house. I heard that he didn’t have enough money to buy new wood, so this tedious work we were doing was very helpful to him, which made doing it not as bad, same with the bricks. That’s really what keeps you going on these types of trips. As long as you know that the work you are doing benefits others who are not as fortunate as you, it helps you to keep pushing forward.

On the non-work side, I am so happy that we were able to stay at the church that we did. I don’t know if any other facility would have welcomed us as much as the Olive Branch church did. Through the week, they cooked us two dinners, and one breakfast. Since we were staying at their facility, I would’ve thought that we should be cooking them dinner, but no, they fed us.

Along with that, the people we met along the way were just amazing! Kayra, the youth group leader at the church, is one of the kindest people, and amazing cooks I’ve ever met! Also Scott, the leader of NRN, stayed with us the whole week, and even taught me Hammer 101. Lastly our bus driver, Don, is one of the sweetest men I’ve met. This trip was his last one. He called it his Swan Song. He also told me that, “my first trip was with Steve, and now my last trip is with Steve.” I don’t think this trip would’ve been the same without these people. Lastly, I can’t stress enough that the feeling you get from these trips is priceless.