A little bit of background information for you. First, about the concept of this blog itself. I am creating this as a reflection on my week spent in Vanceburg, Kentucky doing service for the local people through Glenmary Farm (more on that in a minute). While there I was able to experience a slice of the Appalachian culture and the problems affecting the region. I worked on such a wide variety of different projects and experienced so many different aspects of the region that I thought it best to flesh out some of those themes and lessons in this reflective format.
Here I will go through my week chronologically, bolstering my experiences with research on the different themes that each day brought out about the region. Most of these themes are noted by Loyal Jones in his work Appalachian Values. It’s amazing how in just a week so many of these values made themselves manifest!
I also wanted to take a little space and give you some background on the Farm as well. The Farm was founded by the Glenmary Home Missioners, an order of priests that serve rural America. It was founded by Father William Howard Bishop in 1939 in Cincinatti, Ohio. Glenmary has missions in over 50 locations in rural America spanning from Appalachia to the Southwest. They reside in areas where the poverty level is typically double the national average and where Catholics are a small minority of the population. Glenmary Farm is one of these missions located in Lewis County, Kentucky. It was originally founded as a way to recruit young men into the Glenmary order but evolved to become a Catholic volunteer camp where high school, college and various faith based groups come to serve the people of Lewis County in a week long immersion experience. True to the Glenmary paradigm, 28.5% of Lewis County residents live below the poverty line. This is compared to 12.6% at the nationwide level . The motto of the Farm is “Peace Came and Stayed”, an appropriate one I think it is a place of Peace for both the members of the community and for the volunteers that pass through. For its volunteers, it encourages simplicity and living in the moment, allowing them a unique and powerful service experience and honest reflection away from the hustle and bustle of fast paced suburbia. Without cell phones (they don't work anyway) or watches it's all about the service you're doing not what's next on the schedule. For those wondering there was a limit of one shower per week but luckily the outhouse was just for show possibly to freak out new arrivals to make them wonder what they're getting themselves into.