Bill’s story appeared on the blog last week, but you should read his whole statement. It is a testament both to Bill and to the power of the ASP ministry
Hi everyone, my name is Bill Swales and I am a junior at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio where I am majoring in History and minoring in French and Francophone Studies. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my passion for ASP.
When I was in high school in 2011 I heard about ASP at Northminster from two of my friends, Dan Lenz and Patrick Benn who had gone on that year’s trip. After they got back from the trip, they told me how what an amazing experience it was doing the work on the homes, meeting the families, bonding with the Northminster group, and the overall experience of being in a part of the United States that is in such severe poverty. In 2012, I went on my first ASP trip with the church and let me tell you, it completely made me rethink all that I knew about what it meant to be poor.
The work that we did during my first year in Clinton, Tennessee engrained in me what it really meant to give back to others. That year, my work crew and I installed a new porch roof for our homeowner so she could sit outside and be shaded from the sun during the hot summers and be able stay dry when it rained or snowed. Leaving the worksite on that Friday, the last day, made me feel sad, yet so proud because I wanted to continue to help, and I knew that what I had done had really changed that homeowners life for the better. When we finally got back to Evanston I told my parents immediately to make sure I could go the following year. For the five years after that I went on ASP with Northminster, going to five different Appalachian counties, doing five different projects, but coming back further changed with each year.
ASP has also had an impact on my education at Wooster. Being that I am a History Major, I became very interested in the history of the Appalachia region and the poverty that still exists there today in 2017. I have written a research paper on public health crises in Appalachia and I am currently writing my Junior Independent Study at Wooster on the social impact of Black Lung Disease on Central Appalachian coal miners from 1960 to 1980. Moreover, my interest in poverty and my experience with ASP has taken me to an internship for this coming summer. This summer, I will be an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund, which is a research center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that focuses on researching urban and rural poverty related issues within the state of North Carolina. What got me here is solely my passion and experience of doing the work with ASP, meeting the families, seeing how extreme the poverty is in this beautiful region of the country, and taking the ASP experience and applying it to academics and a career interest of mine. What motivates me right now with my I.S. at Wooster and the work I will be doing this summer is that I want to do all that I can to help those living in poverty in Appalachia, make people outside of Appalachia and in Washington D.C. aware of this issue, and work to try and find solutions to the poverty that has affected this region for decades.
All in all, I am telling you that this weeklong service trip will change your life in one way or another and change your perspective on community service as a whole. It isn’t just about doing it to put it on your resume for college. You’ll come back to Evanston after your week in Appalachia forever changed and after the trip is over, be open to the places where the experience of making homes warmer, safer and drier can take you. It has changed my life and I will never forget it. I am sad that I will not be there this summer with you all but I will pray for you and be thinking of you while you are working on your homes while I am in nearby North Carolina. I hope you all have a wonderful week of service and to all the first-year youth and adults, this will be one of the best, if not the best week of your summer.