One of the most memorable moments of this year so far was on a job site during YouthFest in April. I led a crew of high school students in building a wheelchair ramp. While I typically enjoy the construction work and understand it's necessity, I do not always get to see first-hand the immense impact that a project has on a participant's life.
On our third day, we were nearing completion of the basic framework of the ramp when our participant left the house for a medical appointment. She struggled, even with several eager young helping hands, to make it down part of the completed ramp and across the yard to the taxi there to pick her up. Seeing this, our work crew decided to work diligently to finish nailing down all the deck boards on the ramp to make it usable by the time she returned in several hours. With a milestone in mind, the eager young students made great progress so that when the taxi brought back our participant, we hailed her to come up the driveway where the ramp ended. She struggled up the hill of the driveway from the road, forced to stop several times to catch her breath, even having to sit on her walker. I walked beside her, supporting and spotting her as she made her way to the ramp. As soon as she stepped up onto the ramp, and before I even realized, she was three steps past me, walking up the ramp with no trouble and needing no arm to lean on. A few eyes found tears welling up as we saw the impact our work had on the life of this ailing, but strong woman.
The following day, she and her family joined our crew for dinner at the CAP Mission Center. We learned that evening that she had not been out of her home in over 10 years for anything except to go to the hospital or other medical appointments. She spoke of her plan to walk up and down the ramp daily to gain more strength and mobility. She now had a way to work towards improving her health, completely unthought of until that week.
I have witnessed the tears and gratitude of various participants before and how they saw our work as such a great blessing. But when I think of the impact we make with these projects, my mind goes first to this woman and her family, and how what we did for and with them changed their day-to-day life, enabling them to move forward with a new hope.
Sam is an AmeriCorps Member and long-term volunteer serving in our Elderly Housing Program. He lives in the Johnson Volunteer house and is originally from Texas. For more information about volunteer opportunities at CAP email firstname.lastname@example.org.