Serve. Learn. Grow Sustainfloyd's 2016 Service Learning Week in Floyd County, Virginia

Twenty five young people join hands in a circle on the grassy knoll. Asked to show north, fingers point in all directions. Ignoring the persistent drizzle, they are intrigued with the message they hear from naturalist Michael Blackwell—they can get to know better this home, this planet we live on, they can appreciate and enjoy it more fully.

The students, from St. Joseph’s Catholic University in Pennsylvania barely know each other yet, but have just landed from their first long bus journey together. This week will bring them closer together, and will help them explore the question: ‘what does it mean to serve?’

This is FLEX, the Floyd Experience, SustainFloyd’s service learning experiment in which college students are invited to experience living close to nature in a rural community and to understand more about the nature of the challenges that face us in maintaining a healthy environment and a resilient economy.

The week will be filled with novel experiences: handling bio dynamically managed bees, watching horse logging, preparing farm fresh food for a crowd, helping the local clothing bank to streamline their warehouse space, trying out farm work, and more.

Sleeping on the floor, huddled together in a single large dorm, the students talk late into the night. They address questions big and small, personal and universal. Mid-way through the week there is an ah-ha moment when one student mentions that Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment asks Catholics not just to care for the poor, but to care for the whole creation.

Gathering again on the last morning the students glow with a sense of new discovery. The experience has been meaningful to many of them. We hear of new interest in the university gardens, the wish to cook at home, the wish to understand more about our relationship with the natural world. It is another moment when joining hands in a circle gives a sense of belonging, and now, a better understanding of how to find true North!

Created By
Jackie Crenshaw


Images by Woody Crenshaw and Fred First

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