By Julia Love
The snacks are packed up, the floors are mopped, the cars drive away one by one, and WorkFest 2017 is officially over.
WorkFest (noun): an annual event that hosts college groups for a week at a time for three consecutive weeks to repair and rebuild houses for families in need.
There is a shock and relief to WorkFest ending as this was my first time experiencing it. Since it was held in the county where I serve as caseworker, it was my participants’ houses that were repaired. My housemates and I got to be a part of the evening activities back at camp with all the college students as well as many CAP volunteers.
I learned a lot about… well, a lot! I learned about how siding gets put on when I made visits to the job site. I learned how to talk through anxieties with a participant who wasn’t used to so many strangers being in her house. I learned how to get accurate directions and make drivers manuals, order porta johns, help crews talk about their week, encourage students I had just met… the list goes on and on.
I want to tell you what it is like in the aftermath. I am full of energy from the rush of all the people, and I am a little heartbroken from making fast friends just to say goodbye. I slept for almost the whole weekend after it was over and did not regret it. I made sure the porta johns were taken off the sites; I caught up with paperwork, and I got to organize some of my storage and my office. My community had some chats and got together for a birthday. The “normal” set back in but still left a trail of “crazy” from the weeks before.
I got to catch up with my participants… and cry with my participants. I had two families who experienced some losses before and during WorkFest, and I gave them the phone number for a CAP counselor. Most of my phone calls in the week after had been with those participants who needed reassurance that we are coming back to finish the job while some were just to say thank you. Some of the women are going to sign up for the Women’s Retreat we have in May; the families with kids who are old enough are going to send them off to Camp AJ and be a part of our School Readiness Program in the summer.
What a wild ride of emotions from connecting with people to watching them leave—a separated community coming back together, giving a heartbroken participant a shoulder to lean on and a new roof. I haven’t yet found the words to describe how it feels to be in WorkFest or how it lingers afterwards. You’ll just have to come volunteer to find out!
Julia is serving as an AmeriCorps Family Advocacy/Housing Caseworker and living in the McCreary Volunteer community. She is a 2016 graduate of Neumann University. Opinions expressed in volunteer blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CAP or the Volunteer Program.