Project was a true ‘blessing’

Before I started high school, it had always been hard to truly empathize with those in hardship and need. After spending my entire life in a town where property values trend towards the highest in the country and BMWs seem to find their way into every other parking spot, the problems of the less fortunate couldn’t have seemed further away.

I was always supportive of community efforts to help those in need but they, in a sense, seemed to put almost more distance between those I came out to help and myself. My schoolmates and I would raise funds for a cause, send the money off and be done with it. It seemed more like a transaction than a helping hand to a person in need.

I never realized how truly important that work was until I was given the opportunity to travel to Africa and see what charitable work meant to those in need. My journey took me to the small east African nation of Rwanda, a place that is in the process of a meteoric rise from the third world after the desperate low of a 1994 genocide that murdered almost one million of its people.

The group that took me there is called Project Blessing, a nonprofit started by a teacher at The Stanwich School in Greenwich. Project Blessing had been involved in the region since 2006, building a school in a rural area called Cyabatanzit that was ineligible for the government funds necessary to start construction. The main goal of the trip was to paint the parts of the school that had been built over the winter, but our itinerary brought us all over the country and gave us a complete cross section of life in Rwanda that I had not been expecting.

Over the course of that trip, I saw things that had been unimaginable to me at that point and met people who changed my life. To this day, my most poignant memory from those rambling excursions through the Rwandan countryside remains the afternoon we met the child Stanwich had sponsored through World Vision.

Our child was the youngest in a family of seven, living in a one-room house carved out of the side of a hill. They invited us inside, let us sit where they sat every day and spoke to us about how God was good for bringing us into their homes and their lives.

I had heard of families living in homes made of dirt bricks and reeds, but to sit amongst that family I had come to know in their dirt home was what it took to make it come full circle that these people needed change and that I could bring it to them. I returned from that trip eager to do all that I could for the cause, in a way that I never had been before.

Meeting the people of Project Blessing not only showed me the necessity of helping the less fortunate, but the necessity of making a connection with those you help. That connection is the difference between charity and a mutual exchange between people, who weren’t worlds apart to begin with.

Service in our community is unique because while there is so much we can give, we can receive just as much by going the extra mile.

 

Christopher Lucey is a junior at Brunswick School.

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