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Spring Break away from the sand but in the dirt

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Photo: Tasha Stiger

Last week, six Drake students drove 13 hours to Chavies, Ky., to work over their Spring Break instead of relaxing at a beach.

The students rebuilt the underpinning of a trailer—the area between the trailer and the ground. They worked long hours and dug trenches, put boards up to make it more sturdy, leveled wooden planks and dug some more if it wasn’t level. They completed all this, even though it rained the first two days.

“We got down and dirty,” Michelle Markiewicz said. Markiewicz was the only sophomore of the group.

Drake’s Director of Campus Programming and Student Activities Board Adviser Tasha Stiger led the students since it was through student life programming. There were four first-years: Lucy Stanke, Tanaya Thomas, Samantha Carlson and Katie Elder. Colton Davis, graduating next December, also went on the trip.

“We thought it would be weird because he was the only guy, but he fit in just fine,” Markiewicz said.

The Drake group spent the week with other students from Indiana and an adult church group from Wisconsin. They bunked in cabins with 20 to 30 beds in a single room. They were split into small groups to work on separate sites. All seven volunteers from Drake worked on the same trailer that housed a family of four.

They family has two daughters, ages 1 and 3. The 1-year-old has a rare genetic bone disorder, small lungs and had birth complications, Markiewicz said. The Appalachia Service Project fixes up people’s homes, which in turn helps them feel better about themselves.

“It was just kind of sad to see how they lived,” Markiewicz said. The family didn’t have running water for two to three days. She added the experience made them appreciate the fact that they had bathrooms with flushing toilets and showers that worked.

At the end of the week, Markiewicz said the family was so happy, especially since they didn’t have to run after the previously broken paneling of the underpinning.

“Even though it was Spring Break and everyone goes to the Bahamas or the beach, it shows you how appreciative you have to be,” Markiewicz said. “It was a full day of work, but it was worth it in the end.”

After seven days together, the students haven’t stopped talking—even after returning to Des Moines.

“We’re all really close now which I never thought we would; we’re all such a random group,” Markiewicz said. “It’s weird—we’re like a family now.”

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