For the Community Service Trip of 2015, students traveled to the hot and humid island of St. Helena, South Carolina. Mrs. David organized a week in which students worked hard, contributing their efforts to a range of charitable works while also enjoying a few tourist attractions. Upon our arrival in South Carolina, the group hopped onto the bus we would use for the duration of the week, where we enjoyed a tasty, prepared box lunch. We were then shuttled off to Fort Sumter,where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The underwhelming physical size of the fort came as a surprise to many of us Fifth Form U.S. history students; however, a tour of the museum inside would show us how strong a defense Fort Sumter could have provided in its time. After a couple hours there, we rode to the Comfort Inn where we would spend our leisure and free time for the duration of the trip.
On our first full day of the trip, we met up with out correspondent for the group of people we were working with that week, the Gullah Geechee. The Gullah are the descendants of African groups who were brought over to North America as slaves. The society that exists today is largely the same as that which was brought over, maintaining a very traditional African culture. Our correspondent was in fact the elected Queen of the Gullah nation herself, so she was very educated on the elements of her community. We spent the entire first day learning from her about the culture of the Gullah as she took us around to various public buildings of her people. The next day, we started our community service by picking up trash, raking certain patches of lawn, and moving furniture in and out of deteriorating homes. We broke for lunch, which we had packed that day and the following days in the morning with the sandwich material provided by our hotel. After lunch, we returned to our work until 3:30, where we would return to the hotel for some pool time and dinner.
The third full day was much like the previous, in that the nature of our work was largely the same as that which we had done the day before. Ultimately, we would spend another couple hours picking up trash around Gullah property. On Wednesday, due to scattered rain showers throughout the day, the Queen informed Mrs. David that our efforts would not be entirely efficient with the poor weather, so we should just stay at the hotel. The chaperones frantically searched for other community service activities nearby, but they were unsuccessful, although the group did enjoy their time going to the movies and a local bowling alley.
On Thursday, we returned to the Queen for our last day of community service and, to no surprise, she requested that we use our time by picking up more trash. Begrudgingly, we adhered to her words and returned to what was getting to be a monotonous task. At the close of the day, the Queen thanked us for our services, took a photograph with students and chaperones, and sent us on our way. We spent that evening packing our bags and preparing for the journey back the next day. On Friday, we said our goodbyes to both the hotel and South Carolina and made our way to the airport where we would fly back to Boston, officially ending a somewhat unconventional but satisfying community service trip.
The St. Helena trip was entirely a positive experience this year. Students were forced to mingle with others whom they wouldn’t have interacted otherwise. New friendships were made, as we became better acquainted with the people we go to school with. Ultimately, the community service side of things could have gone better; however, this was by no fault of our own. The Queen, despite only benevolent intentions, proved to be a somewhat difficult correspondent, in that she strained her relations with our chaperones. We did end up doing a great deal of work, just perhaps not in the way we imagined we would. The week was overall a good representation of the hard work we do and fun we have on the community service trips. Any Belmont Hill student should therefore be encouraged to at least consider next year’s trip, the destination of which still has yet to be decided.