by Karli Drda (’16, Earth Sciences)
Member, Engineers Without Borders at Penn State
When I originally signed up to go on the Alternative Spring Break trip for Engineers Without Borders at Penn State, I had some doubts. For one, I didn’t know many people who were going on the trip. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I was okay with not going home for the week. My reservations vanished when I met the people on the trip and we hit the road. Everyone was very friendly and excited to get started on our projects.
After a ten-hour car trip, we arrived in Spartanburg, SC, to sunshine and 75 degree weather. We spent the first night settling into our home for the week, Saint John’s Lutheran Church’s Youth Center, and getting to know Sharon Tarver from the Fuller Center for Housing, who organized the projects that we had for the week.
The first project was to help a family of five whose house had fallen into disrepair after a leak developed in the roof next to the chimney. We were tasked with removing two trees that had been in danger of falling on the house, chopping it into firewood for the family’s wood stove.
The rest of our time in Spartanburg was spent working on a house owned by a gentleman named Earl, an elderly veteran. Earl was unable to take care of his home after he became disabled. Extensive damage made the bathroom unusable and forced Earl to move to a nursing home. We spent our time in Earl’s home repairing the bathroom, including replacing the tub, sink and toilet and strengthening the floor supports and replacing sheetrock. Since Earl had been away for some time, the rest of his house needed cleaning to make it fit for him to live in again. The kitchen sink was replaced, and Earl’s book and computer collection was organized and dusted. After his home was back in working order, Sharon sent a few members of our group to visit Earl to give him the good news.
Meeting Earl was a very inspiring experience. He was overjoyed when we told him that he would be able to move back home soon. After living in the nursing home for some time, he was excited that he would be able to return to the home that he had lived in for more than twenty years. He could not thank us enough for what we were doing to help him. Earl himself was able to add to the good news: after becoming disabled and having a stroke, he had been confined to a wheelchair. However, in the few months prior to our visit his condition had improved drastically and he was once again able to walk. He also told us stories about his wife and about being a veteran. Hearing these stories made us all see how we were helping to change Earl’s life for the better.
As the week drew to a close, we said goodbye to our wonderful host Sharon and the others who helped us with the projects, and headed back to State College. Although the trip flew by, I’m sure none of us will forget the awesome memories we shared.
Karli Drda is a sophomore studying Earth Sciences in the College of Earth & Mineral Science. This is her first year in Engineers Without Borders at Penn State. She hopes to continue being an active participant in the organization, as well as other community service groups, for the remainder of her time at Penn State. She hopes that her experiences in Engineers Without Borders will help with her future career in Earth Science.