Monday, December 13, 2010

ASB'06 - Fries, Virginia

As I begin documenting new organizations, I'd like to also tell you about my trips I took in you can begin to understand where this all started from. And hopefully help more people :) 

In the Spring of 2006, I went on my first Alternative Spring Break trip. As I mentioned before, when you signed up for these trips, you signed up for an issue to work on. Then you are assigned the issue, and then you find out where you are going. 

I signed up for Rural Poverty. And was sent to Fries (pronounced FREEZE), Virginia. 

I'm not sure what I expected to find in Fries, but I know it was nothing like I had imagined it. It looked like your normal small, cute little town. Except everyone has accents. Oh, and they couldn't afford their own school.

The town was originally built and supported by a textile company. Here is what's left of it:

The mill was closed in 1989 when it employed hundreds of locals. Since then, people have been moving out of town for lack of work. At the time of this trip, the school in town was shut down and had been since 2004.

When you think of a traditional "town" can you even picture one without their own school? The children of Fries had to go to "nearby" schools... which sometimes required an hour long bus ride.

The playground at the closed school

Now I'm not a political girl, and I don't know much about Public School funding or all the details about the mill shutting down. But I did get to meet the people of Fries, and they are kind and were so welcoming. They even taught us how to square dance! 

But their town was just sort of....heartbreaking. And almost eerie.  
So, while we were there, we worked in the building that was their school. We spent a day cleaning there and trying to get it ready because they were having it inspected soon, in hopes to begin the reopening process.

The other days we were there, we went to the "nearby" schools to help. At one school, we cleaned and helped out around the school with maintenance type things. This began my love for power washing :)

 At the other school we went to, a group of us got to paint the building....

And, if we wanted to, we could help in a classroom. Which obviously, I did, because I love kids. The classrooms were crazy--too many children and not enough help. It was nice to get to spend some time with the kids--some of which had to take those crazy bus rides--and to be able to give their teacher a break for a bit.

In 2007, Fries reopened their school to grades 4-6. The rest of the kids still have to commute to other schools, but at least they have a school now. There are 120 students and six full time teachers.

This trip was a little hard to cope with because there is not much you can do. How do you put a town back together after it's slowly disintegrated? I can't fund their school. I can't convince people to move back to a town with no jobs to offer them. I guess it was a good trip to have early on because I had to learn fast that I can't solve all the problems of the world.

Right now, the Rec Center is doing a toy drive for the kids in Fries. It's sort of last minute, they need donations by December 15th. But, here it is if you're moved to help this town in just the smallest way : if you want to send a donation for the toy drive, click here

Be the change. Make the difference. 

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