by Liza Kotar, IOCC US Program Intern, Summer 2018

The week of August 13, 2018, ten alumni of IOCC’s Serv-X-treme youth leadership conference gathered from all over the country in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Our assignment was to rebuild a home for John (not his real name), a veteran, who lives on a fixed income in a one-bedroom home with his dog. John has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it difficult for him to stand and move for long periods of time.

His home is one of many damaged last year when Hurricane Irma moved north over almost all of Florida.

As we arrived onsite and delved into ceiling repair, yard work, and cleanup, I went inside to get to know John. As I walked into John’s living room, I noticed that he had pictures of his family on his wall. I asked about them and realized that John just wanted to share his story—he told me about his siblings and their accomplishments. He told me about his proud moments and weak moments.

It was with this exchange that I learned how important our work is. It isn’t just the practical work we do, but it’s also about the impact that our actions make on those we help. It is the connection we are establishing—it is helping people feel like they are seen again. 

John admitted that he is a devoted cynic and doesn’t have a lot of faith in religiosity. However, having people come and help him with no motive whatsoever has given him a renewed sense of faith in humanity. He purposefully noted several times in our conversation that he didn’t know that people still “helped just to help.” This experience alone, he said, has given him hope—hope for the future, hope in community—and a renewed sense of comfort.