Youth from St. Mary in Mt. Vernon have formed a relationship with the people of Cairo through their work with Daystar, a diocesan outreach agency.
For the past four years, young people have been going to Cairo to offer their service in whatever capacity they are needed. They clean up yards, paint inside or out, work in the Thrift Store where the Daystar offices are located, and they become friends with the people in the community.
“None of the youth think of it as a vacation,” Marien Leuty, one of the adults accompanying the youth, said.
Because young people have spent time in Cairo, they know where the supplies are and can get to work immediately.
Five of the nine making the trip this year were “veterans” or had been on a mission trip in the past, Leuty said.
The youth presented a check to Sherry Miller, Daystar Community Program director, for $2,000 to help pay for a shed to hold supplies, Leuty said.
Money came from a grant the youth received from the Catholic Holy Family Society. Young people also hosted fund raisers to help offset the cost of the trip. They also earned money by hosting a rummage sale and cooking breakfast after Mass.
High school freshman and new recruit this year, Olivia Heinzman, said she was happy to go on the trip. She wanted to serve others.
All of the young people did just that. “They want to go back,” Leuty said.
The experience also included time to reflect on and share their daily experiences in the evenings. “Every evening they spoke of the high and low points of the day,” Leuty said.
Young people were surprised at the living conditions of those they helped. They were also surprised that the people said they wanted to do the work themselves — painting or weeding or cleaning — but they were just unable to do it anymore.
The people expressed their appreciation to the young people, and “that made it worthwhile.” Leuty said she has participated in past trips to Cairo and is gratified to see the growth and changes in some of the “veterans.” Leuty, like the youth, said she will return if she is needed.
— Liz Quirin