When I was a first semester freshman in the fall of 2016, I saw a flyer hanging on a bulletin board while I was living in RC1, promoting Miner Challenge. I looked into the program and learned about various groups within the organization traveling all over the United States, and even abroad, for service trips during periods of time that we had breaks from school. In that moment, I didn’t realize the impact this social justice and awareness group would have on me as an individual.
I am so grateful I took the chance and applied to the program. I was selected to be on the San Marcos, Texas trip, which partnered with the St. Bernard Project, an organization that works to minimize the effects of natural disasters. My team personally worked to restore the home of a family affected by water damage from storms and floods. Through this service opportunity, we were able to learn about drywall installation, techniques for laying tile flooring, and lead paint remediation. I learned that restoring a home is prefered when compared to rebuilding a new house for those affected by natural disasters because it shrinks the time to return to a normal lifestyle.
This past week, five teams were sent to various locations covering the United States to complete their own projects. The focus areas of these trips included education & the arts, homeless veterans, hunger & homelessness, indigenous nations, and wildlife conservation. Dani Blackard, the trip leader for the wildlife conservation team, desired to lead through this position after traveling to Managua, Nicaragua with the program during the previous winter break. Blackard explained that “it truly was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I wanted to make that happen for others, so I decided to lead a trip of my own in the hopes of engaging others in the same experience.”
Dani is passionate about spreading the word on all the positive projects that Miner Challenge takes part in. She finds one of the most rewarding aspects of the program the ability to inspire and motivate others to care about social justice issues in their community and the world with her stories and experiences. Through her leadership role this year, Dani said that the moments when her team overcame obstacles and addressed various situations that arose were the most interesting and proud times that she had during the trip.
When I attended the Miner Challenge trip to San Marcos, TX over the 2017 spring break, the bonds that were formed through days working together to restore a dilapidated home combined with nights sitting around the campfire reflecting and sharing stories created bonds which ended up being my favorite part of the trip. This is parallel to Dani’s experience, in which she says her most significant take-away from Miner Challenge is “the relationships. You meet so many people that are so unique and vastly different from you that you never would have encountered outside of the program.” The inspiration of being surrounded with diverse individuals who possess a similar passion for service and the well-being of our planet create an unforgettable experience.