Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2017 – West Virginia Goodness

Name: Nelson Olawoyin
From: Walpole, MA
Grade: 11
School: Boston Adventist Dream Academy
Votes: 0

Anxious, excited, scared – all in the same hour. I experienced soaring highs
and deep lows as I flew from Boston to Beckley, West Virginia for
Youth for Jesus (YFJ) 2016, a church-based organization that serves
communities’ mental, medical, spiritual, and social needs. YFJ
connects with community organizations and individual healthcare
providers to provide healthcare and social services to underserved
areas. I was assigned to organize the children’s program for four
churches. Massive floods swept across West Virginia just four days
prior to my arrival. My volunteer group drove from Beckley to
Rainelle, one of the hardest-hit towns.  Deserted paved roads
gave way to dirt before winding steeply up wooded hollows that
yielded iconic Appalachian poverty imagery – homes crumbling from
neglect and heavy rain. My meager housing arrangement in a K-5
schoolroom contained bright blue metal bunk beds with thin
mattresses. My stomach churned in distress as I looked at the one
makeshift cold-water only shower stall outside.

What a transformative month! Great lessons of courage and perseverance
were bundled in my conversations with residents as I distributed
relief buckets filled with sponges, brushes, Pine-Sol, and hand
sanitizer to clean-up slimy, black mold-infested homes. Gratitude was
expressed to me from medical clinic patients, which taught me the
power of hope to spur people to persevere after a major flood. The
West Virginia residents were so grateful that we YFJ volunteers and
others valued their community enough to organize a multispecialty
medical, dental and vision clinic for three days. This clinic
provided everything from dental care and minor surgeries, to
haircuts, food, and post-trauma counseling.

Working with children and providing free care to their parents created
memories of a lifetime for all those involved. Furthermore, through
interacting with the kids by demonstrating through our actions the
importance of giving back hopefully will inspire them to do the same
as the grow up. I hope to continue doing volunteer work related to
children and the medical field as there is a great need in the world.
Although I realize I cannot fix everything in the world, my goals is
to induce as much change as possible, one life at a time.

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