Trekkers’ 10th grade Team Everest made a first-time Trekkers 10-day “Cross-America Disaster Relief” expedition to Houston, Texas, with a focus on disaster recovery from the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. Led by Program Manager Hannah Tannebring, the Team Everest group of 11 students and five other leaders left Thomaston on Feb. 13.
For the first three days of the trip, the group worked with SBP, a national long-term disaster recovery non-profit organization that sets up work hubs in areas severely affected by natural disaster. Team Everest mudded, painted, and installed flooring in three different houses, to help shrink the amount of time families were uprooted from their homes. The group was able to meet with one family whose house they were working on, and talked with them about the impacts of the storm, how challenging life still is, and how important the work that SBP is doing in the more impoverished and severely impacted areas of Houston.
After their third full day of hard labor, the group headed to San Antonio to see the Rodeo and the Goo Goo Dolls, which was a first for everyone on the team.
Team Everest students and leaders overcame great challenges with a caving experience at the Robber Baron Caves, where they were inches away from bats. Everyone supported each other through the incredibly challenging parts of the cave and the group emerged from the experience feeling proud of themselves, and stronger as a team.
The next day, Team Everest headed off on a side trip to New Orleans, where they all enjoyed Po’ Boy sandwiches at Parkway Bakery & Tavern. The following day, the team visited SBP-New Orleans (the SBP Headquarters, where it all began) to learn about the extensive amount of work still being done by large groups to relieve the impacts of Hurricane Katrina. The group heard a personal story from a woman who survived Katrina, and learned about contractor fraud and other challenges that have come up during the past 12 years. They also explored the French Quarter to explore the many cultures of New Orleans, and sampled the famous Café Du Monde Beignets! The next experience they had was a Swamp Tour, where they saw a hog, raccoon, five alligators, snakes, a Great Blue Heron, and egrets. The team was fascinated to learn about fishing camps and the type of hunting in the swamps, which is a significant part of the culture in the South. To wrap up the day, they attended a Ghost Tour, and learned a lot about the dark history of New Orleans.
The next day, Team Everest headed back to Houston, and wrapped up their overall experience by working with Jaime Garcia, the pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church. They delivered many crucial goods to families in neighborhoods that are still experiencing the intense impacts of Hurricane Harvey. Team Everest students and leaders were caught in torrential downpours while running from house to house, interacting with families, and providing water, Clorox, snack boxes, and toiletries to people they had never met before. This was an incredible lasting impression of the trip for all participants, and really put the whole theme of the trip into perspective. The group left feeling very affected by their experience and inspired to bring this type of work home to Midcoast Maine.
One of the students reflections was that their biggest impression of the expedition was “standing out in the rain realizing the impact we had by just giving something as little as bleach can make someone’s day.” Another student shared, “I realized how big the world is and how sheltered we are in Maine. It was really amazing to see the big cities, but also very eye opening to see poverty, oil factories, and other things on such a large scale.” And another student felt the most meaningful part of the trip was “the part where we met the third homeowner, I learned how grateful I should be for so many things.”
Trekkers is a non-profit outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. The organization serves the communities of Cushing, Owls Head, Rockland, South Thomaston, St. George and Thomaston. This year, Trekkers will serve more than 240 students from grades 7 to 12 in Midcoast Maine.
For information about Trekkers, please contact the office at (207) 594-5095 or visit www.trekkers.org.