Among the various trips over spring break was the annual community service trip. This year, the group, led by Mrs. David, went to Chico, Paradise, and Oroville, California, to help the area recover from devastating fires in recent years. Initially planned for the spring break of 2020, the trip was postponed due to COVID-19, but after years of anticipation, the trip finally came to fruition this year. After landing in San Francisco and eating lunch at Pier 39, the group walked across the Golden Gate Bridge before making the three-hour drive to the Best Western Heritage Hotel in Chico, California.
Throughout the week, the team heard different accounts of the fires. On Sunday, the group listened to two members of the Jubilee Church tell their stories about being in Paradise on the day of the fire. Later in the week, the mayor of Paradise, Steve Crowder, came to the hotel to elaborate on the clean-up process and the work that still must be done in the area. The group also talked to firefighters who were on duty in Paradise on the day of the fire and listened to a powerful speech by a pastor who lived in the town. These vivid recounts made the work far more meaningful and helped illustrate how important the group’s help was.
The group worked on numerous projects throughout the week. Some projects aimed at helping the large homeless population in Oroville and Paradise as a result of the fires. These projects included building and painting small houses that were to be distributed to the homeless, helping out at the Hope Center, and working on the shower truck. Other projects helped manage the environmental ramifications of the disasters. One issue the area faces is invasive species that have thrived in the region since the fires. To combat this, small groups went onto the trails surrounding Paradise Lake and pulled invasive plants out of the ground. They also helped out at local churches and a local school, doing yard work and removing debris from the fires.
Overall, the trip was a powerful experience. Driving through Paradise, one could see the empty lots where houses and shops once stood. Fences block off empty areas of land, and signs for real estate companies willing to buy empty land are abundant around town. To hear the stories, and to see the effects climate change is having on the world, was truly moving, and it motivated Belmont Hill students to take action.