Hard work and hope: Local woman spends summer traveling across the U.S., supporting mission trip volunteers

Photo courtesy of Rachel Core
Rachel Core (left) of Dearborn works as a Catholic Heart Workcamp facilitator in Oklahoma City the week of June 23, where mission trip volunteers removed debris from homes damaged by tornadoes earlier in the year.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – When describing a favorite summer job, few students would add “most difficult” to its description, but Rachel Core, 22, of Dearborn, is far from typical.

A recent nursing graduate of University of Detroit Mercy, Core spent two months this summer with Catholic HEART Workcamp of Goldenrod, Fla., as a facilitator for mission trip volunteers. She is a veteran volunteer of six past CHWC mission trips she attended with Sacred Heart Parish youth groups since her freshman year at Edsel Ford High School.

As a facilitator, Core joined a 10-member work team that traveled to seven western U.S. cities, where she slept on air mattresses in school classrooms, cooked meals for large groups, led faith-based evening programs and offered encouragement and practical advice to teen mission trip volunteers.

The facilitators were up by 6 a.m. each day to serve breakfast to the volunteers and provide lunch packing foods, Core said. Each day they started making dinner around 1 p.m.

During the day, the facilitators also traveled around to the work sites, took photos of the volunteers, and planned the evening worship and recreational activities. Core said she often went to bed at 12:30 or 1 a.m. each night.

Core said that even though they worked hard, they had fun while they were doing it.

“It was the best and hardest job I’ve ever had,” Core said. “It was really challenging because of the physical aspects of it, but I learned so much about myself. I’ve just been able to do things I didn’t think I’d be able to do.”

Since her first mission trip as a teen, the happiness and joy of the CHWC facilitators impressed Core.

“Even though they were doing hard work, they were having an awesome time doing it,” Core said. “That’s what I wanted to feel. I wanted that opportunity to give back to the organization that helped me grow as a person.”

About half of the 150 facilitator applicants this year were accepted, Core said.

Following training at CHWC near Orlando, her team led volunteer groups ranging from 80 to 380 people at volunteer worksites in Denver; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; Kansas City, Kan.; and Springfield and Champaign, Ill.

Most volunteers painted and repaired soup kitchens, low-income daycare centers and fixed private homes and weeded yards for people unable to do the work themselves.

In Oklahoma City, however, adult volunteers cleared away tornado debris from recent storms. (For liability reasons, minors stayed away from disaster zones.) The facilitator team was able to join them for one day.

“It was very devastating,” Core said. “While we were working we were really quiet. All we did was move debris for hours.”

Core said they drove along the path of the tornado’s destruction and saw untouched homes on one side of the street and homes totally flattened on the other side. She said the facilitators and volunteers were left with a sense of appreciation for their own possessions, and realized their labor would be appreciated by the residents who lost so much in the path of the storm.

She said first time volunteers are often discouraged when they feel their physical labor makes an insignificant difference compared to the overwhelming needs of the communities where they volunteer.

She said the facilitators try to show the volunteers how they positively influence the individuals they help and how they grow as individuals by volunteering.

“It might not make a difference for a lot of people, but it is making a big difference for some people,” Core said.

During their evening programs, which are a time of spiritual reflection and faith building, the facilitators help the work camp participants understand how their volunteer labor is like a spiritual workout.

Core explained how with a gym membership, if you do not use the machines you get nothing out of it. Similarly, she said church members should go out into the world and put their faith in action.

“Every time that I’ve gone to a work camp I’ve come back feeling really refreshed,” Core said. “I feel like it is a kind of spiritual cleansing.”

Core hopes to continue to attend CHWC mission trips as an adult chaperone with Sacred Heart’s youth group.

“It has made such a difference in my life,” Core said. “I’ve grown a lot in my faith and as a person. I’ve learned how to be more patient and how to appreciate people and appreciate small things in my life.”

Core said the team of facilitators she worked with at all of the worksites, whom she met during training, made a difference as well.

“We became so close so fast because of the experience that we were going through,” Core said. “I think between the camaraderie of the teammates that I was with this summer and the opportunity for me to grow as a person and grow in my faith really made it the best summer I have ever had.”