Kate Snyder has been living in the same house in Severn, Maryland, for more than 18 years.
"I raised my son here. It was a beautiful place to raise a child. Now, I'm on my own and still enjoying it."
But as the years pass, the house needs many repairs. Snyder, who is retired and still works two part-time jobs, does not have the money to pay for repairs.
Enter Group Cares, a Christian-based aid organization.
Each year, the group sends hundreds of teenagers on service trips across the United States. The young people repair homes and provide other help. One such team of teens is spending a week repairing Snyder's house.
"They're going to put in new stairs for me," she said happily. "And it needed paint desperately."
Blocks away, other teens are working on Ursula Brett's home. They are removing wallpaper and preparing to paint the house.
Free repairs and more
More than 400 teenagers from all over the U.S. take part in the service trips. They spend one week of their summer vacation fixing homes in the day, and sleeping on the floor of local Christian religious centers at night.
Eric Lohe, spokesperson for Group Cares, says teens work at 30 sites. He says they work in groups of five and are guided and supervised by adult volunteers.
"We provide adult leaders who are always around on the sites helping students to be able to learn skills that they wouldn't necessarily have from home."
Both young people and adult volunteers raise money for the camp. Local people provide money as well.
It pays for food, sleep sites and material costs.
Lohe says, "...When we come to a resident we can say, ‘We're here to help you, to provide the repairs, but we're going to do that at no cost.'"
Time to help and learn
The teens working in homes in Severn were part of the Chesapeake Bay Camp. Director Barry Oren says they arrive as strangers.
"We put them in crews with people they['ve] never met before. Then, they go out and work on somebody's home they not only never met before, but also probably will never see again. The idea that they are stepping out of their comfort zone is huge for them," he said. "It gives them an opportunity to be part of the team. Very quickly, almost instantly, they learn how to do projects together."
This summer, the Chesapeake Bay Camp teens put in 7,650 service hours.
"All of a sudden, it starts to make sense," Oren said.
"’Oh, there are people who don't live like I do. There are people that I can help.' They're learning about how to communicate, how to express needs and wants, how to become empathetic."
The service group also holds two Christian religious services a day.
"We're really geared toward helping students, 12- through 17-year-olds, to be able to know God's love for them," Lohe said. "And to be able to share this love, not necessarily by preaching, but by showing that they care for people in the community."
Camp organizers say the free repairs help homeowners save money and provide the young people with a priceless experience.
I’m Caty Weaver.
VOA’s Faiza Elmasry reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
comfort zone – n. a place, situation, or level where someone feels safe and at ease
opportunity – n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done; a chance
instantly – adv. without delay; immediately
empathetic – adj. involving, characterized by, or based on empathy: the act of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another
preach – v. to deliver a religious speech
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.