Teens Build Character By Building Homes

Pipestone Flyer

    If you have never heard of the St. Bernard project, then you might be surprised to find out what a group of teens have been up to. 

    The St. Bernard project is a not for profit organization with a program that rebuilds homes for communities with families who can’t afford to have their homes rebuilt by contractors.  The project, located in Louisiana, USA, started a year after hurricane Katrina and has already built 475 homes. 

    A total of 14 student volunteers from both high schools in Leduc and Beaumont worked together this year to do something they had never done before.  For many, or at least the 3 that I spoke to, it has impacted who they are. 

    The three students, who gave up their spring break earlier this year, describe their experiences on the trip and shared how it changed their lives. 

    Taylor Coate, who was in grade 11 at the time and is from Leduc Composite High School, got involved when she heard about it from some friends; at the time she was supposed to go on a Greece trip but changed her mind and is glad that she did. “That was the best week of my life and I’m going back”, she said with a smile. 

    Not only has she helped make a difference in somebody’s life she admits that it has also impacted her own life. Taylor admits that her entire outlook on life has been altered by the experience, and even shares some insight on who she was prior to the experience. “I’m not going to lie, I used to complain about everything before I went on that trip. Now I have nothing to complain about because of the things that the people down there have to go through. I have it good compared to them,” she confessed.  

    Taylor even admits that since the experience she is a lot happier and has a more positive outlook on life.  

    Joyce Allison, a senior from Beaumont Composite High School, feels that the experience has made her more in touch with what really matters in the world and not to worry about the little things. She comments that even making small complaints about the weather really doesn’t matter when there are people that have to worry about where they are sleeping or how badly their house is falling apart. “It just makes you really think about what your issues are and compared to them they are nothing,” she says with great concern. 

    Michael Vallee, who is now in grade 12 at Leduc Composite High School, shares that this opportunity has made him adamant to help more and to continue to be a part of the project.  “I know I will be going back next year it doesn’t matter what it takes,” says Michael. 

    The volunteers went to New Orleans, staying in one house together. They were responsible for paying their own way for all expenses, including travel, food and a place to stay. In order to raise money for their trip, many of the students will spend their entire year either working or fundraising or even both. Fundraisers are held by the students and are typically done on an individual basis. 

    Even with all of the work they do to raise money as well as giving up their spring break all three of them say it’s still worth it.  “It was really well organized and it’s not all work, you do have fun”, says Allison who loves the program and feels that the people that work with the St. Bernard Project are very kind and helpful. “You’re actually learning how to do things, so it’s pretty cool.”

    Michael shares one of his fondest memories of how appreciative the Americans were to have the volunteers there. He explains that across the street from the house they were staying at was a bakery, one morning they got up early to get a coffee before they went to work on a house.  When they walked into the bakery they were given a cake to show their appreciation for the work that they were doing. 

    The students were accompanied by three supervisors, Dr. Gae Mackwood, a teacher-librarian, Brayde Glassford, a technician assistant; both are from Ecole Secondaire Beaumont composite High School. The third supervisor was Jennifer Lasychuck, a social studies teacher from Leduc Composite High School.

    Dr. Mackwood, who has been a part of the St. Bernard Project on her own, brought the program and information to the Beaumont High School and then later teamed up with the Leduc High School to help gain interest in the program. 

    So when you hear of a fundraiser going on in your community for the St. Bernard project it is not just a fundraiser it is more than that. It’s an opportunity for a student to experience something out of their realm, for some it may be a chance of a lifetime, for others an overwhelming learning experience but what you will know for sure is these students are not only helping change and improve the lives of other people, they are also impacting their own.