“What can I do to help?” This is the question that all 9th grade students at Holderness School explore during their time in Project Outreach. The answers to that question are many and varied and for ten days in March, all of the Holderness School 9th graders engage in service learning projects in Lowell, Boston, and then on the Holderness campus as they explore the ways to commit oneself to the service of others. These service learning projects allow Holderness to support organizations by helping fellow citizens in need, and to also reflect on issues of poverty in America.
Students participated in a “Homeless Walk” through Boston considering the gaze of the homeless through Matthew, a man who was homeless for 10 years. They prepared and served food to women at Rosie’s place. They sorted clothing at the Lowell Transitional Housing Center (LTHC), which helps people who were recently homeless to move into inexpensive housing, and they enthusiastically painted a wall at UTEC, an organization founded to ignite and nurture the ambition of Lowell's most disconnected young people to trade poverty for social and economic success. They cleared land and prepared for planting at Mill City Grows. Whether at the House of Hope, a homeless shelter that just opened a new and bigger building or Lazarus House who is working to provide dignity and respect to those who need support as they move forward from homelessness, students interacted with other service leaders and members of the Lowell community in an “other-centered” service focus.
At the center of the work was the time spent at Christ Church United. Students not only slept on floors and played games in the basement but committed themselves to doing positive work for the church itself. They painted walls, cleaned, built new structures, and engaged with the message and philosophy of Christ Church United—a guiding voice of service and commitment to one’s community.
Holderness students left with the knowledge that often when you work for others, you are the one who is changed the most.
53 students volunteered and served both at the church and the following places:
· Rosie’s Place
· Lazarus House
· Christ Church United
· House of Hope
· Lowell Transitional Living Center
· Merrimack Repertory Theater
· The Whistler Museum
· Mill City Grows
Students also had the following opportunities:
· Participated in a walking tour from the perspective of Boston’s homeless
· Attended a practice and discussion of Cambodian refugees and the Angkor
· At Christ Church United, they heard the story of Kevin Jones, a Lowell Firefighter who now works to assist those struggling with drug addiction in Lowell
· At Christ Church United, they heard the story Muhammed, a refugee who came to the United States after his life and family were threatened because of his work with U.S. troops in Iraq