Nearly 230 volunteers from all over the country each paid his or her own way to be in Buffalo this week. Most of the volunteers are junior high, high school, or college students and they're working from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day this week repairing the homes of needy residents. At night the volunteers are sleeping on the floors of classrooms at Burgard High School with no air conditioning. It's not the way most teens and young adults want to spend their summer vacations, but these "World Changers" volunteers say it's their calling. "I think it's just my place to help people less fortunate than me," says Jordan Thomas, a 17-year-old from Tennessee who volunteered last summer too.
"Getting to see the looks on people's faces when you get to help them out, so I want to get to do that," says 14-year-old ChristiAnn Johnson of Illinois who's on her first trip with World Changers.
ChristiAnn and Jordan were part of a crew that spent all day Tuesday working on the roof and yard of a home on Sidway Street in Buffalo's Old First Ward neighborhood.
Nearly 23,000 World Changers volunteers are tackling similar projects all over North America this summer. The organization has grown considerably since its beginning 20 years ago with 137 volunteers in Briceville, Tennessee. The group's mission is to provide free labor to communities in need, and to spread their faith as part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
On average, participants pay $250 to cover the basic costs such as their food and place to stay during their trips. It's not everyone's idea of fun, but ChristiAnn says she doesn't feel like she's missing out on a summer vacation. "I've had a lot of fun," says ChristiAnn.
"They're all doing it for one reason, because they realize their life isn't about them," says Liz Vest, a World Changers coordinator.
Although their days are filled with hard work, the participants are excited about finding time to enjoy some of the Buffalo-Niagara region's perks. "It's very far north. It's close to Niagara Falls and I love that place," says Jordan.
The participants say though that the real reward is helping out homeowner's like Sharon Wilbur on Sidway Street who couldn't afford a new roof, porch, and wheelchair ramp. "They (World Changers) were a lot of fun, they were great, they did their work," says Wilbur.
"It's four days of hard work and it's just good to do. Makes you feel good," says Jordan.
World Changers plans to be back in the area again next summer. To learn more about volunteering or applying to get work done on a home, go to the following link: http://www.world-changers.net/site/c.jjJVJ6MNIwE/b.4074847/k.BF07/Home.htm