Starting tomorrow, 830 Northern Virginia teenagers will serve the underprivileged in seven northern and central Virginia counties during WorkCamp 2018, June 23-28, a program of the Arlington Diocese of the Catholic Church of America. The teenagers will focus on projects designed to make 120 homes safer and drier. This year’s 135 projects include everything from replacing a roof for a disabled man to painting a house and weatherproofing windows for a single father with six children.
“The first time I went I was skeptical and thought I wouldn’t like it,” say 15-year-old Clare Sparling of St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax. But when Clare arrived at WorkCamp last year, she says, everything changed. “There was such a great camaraderie. Everyone was enthusiastic, and the residents were so appreciative,” she says. This will be Clare’s second WorkCamp. “I came back with such a positive outlook; I want to experience it again,” she says.
According to a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 30.6 percent of Virginia residents volunteer, making Virginia 16th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. and according to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau Statistics, teenagers between 17-19 years-old had a relatively high volunteer rate of 26.4 percent in 2015.
“WorkCamp pulls teens out of their comfort zone and forces them to confront so many new circumstances. They live without their cell phones, they are placed in workgroups with 5 complete strangers, and are asked to do hard physical labor in the hot sun and to come face to face with a neighbor who is in need,” explained Kevin Bohli, diocesan Director of the Office Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries, which organizes WorkCamp. What’s more, Bohli says this experience teaches them countless life lessons and encourages them to confront where God fits in their life.
This will be WorkCamp’s 29th year sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries. The week-long experience — based out of Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg this year — will also include a daily Mass, an evening program complete with music and talks to help the young people reflect upon the experience, and other high-energy activities for them and their adult leaders.