by Beau Simon ’18
Driving from Memphis to Tutwiler, I realized 3 things: there’s a lot less traffic in the south, the sense of loneliness when surrounded completely by farmland is crushing, and a Dodge Caravan can very comfortably fit 6 passengers, a driver, and their luggage! Yesterday was tumultuous, however through the tumult the excitement and positivity of the group certainly shined through. While our fearless leaders, Valerie and Brendan, inspected our dorm, the rest of the group played cards, laughed, and had fun. Despite the bad start, we all knew that what was going to make this trip great was the people, not the lodgings.
After a long day yesterday, we all were eager to rest our heads on the mattresses of the Comfort Inn. Accordingly, we awoke well-rested and ready for the day. After a complimentary breakfast (at which we watched paid programming about face cream!) we piled into our two spacious and beautiful 2017 Dodge Caravans™️ and made our way back to Tutwiler. Our leader in construction, JD, and much younger cousin Lorenzo, met us at our dorm. We split into two groups: one was to put primer on all the walls and ceilings of one house, and the other was to install fiberglass insulation in the ceiling of another house. I installed fiberglass. I must say I am quite impressed with how much both groups accomplished in a relatively short time. During our lunch break, we sat around a table and enjoyed our PBJs while discussing what we learned in our first few hours of service. After we finished eating, we headed behind the dorm and picked teams to play some football. I fell, Elenore learned the rules of football, and with five completions, Susie Mott was most certainly the MVP of the game. After that, it was back to work. After another few hours of priming and installing insulation, we cleaned up the work sites and headed back to our dorm. Then we made the 20-minute drive back to Clarksdale in our gorgeous Dodge Caravans™️. Arriving at the hotel, all those who worked with the fiberglass showered first. (It was an itchy day for a little bit.) After a nice break, we headed out to Wendy’s to have a cheap and tasty dinner. After Wendy’s, we went over to the Walmart. I don’t know if you have ever gone to a Walmart in Mississippi at 9:00 pm two days in a row, but I can proudly say I have. The haul this time: sports equipment and a week’s worth of food. After a long time at Walmart, we went back to the hotel, where we played more cards, ate some horrible tasting jelly beans, and packed up to move to the dorm tomorrow.
Our work so far has been very rewarding. We are working (and soon will be living) in the largest neighborhood in Tutwiler. It consists completely of houses built by Habitat for Humanity and was begun in 1985. The West Tallahatchie Habitat was the first Habitat organization in the state of Mississippi; it was established in 1973. While we are having fun, laughing a lot, and playing plenty of cards, it is impossible to ignore the immense poverty by which we are surrounded. While speaking to the Board President of Habitat, Valerie discovered that the whole region is employed by either of the two (yes two) major prisons in Tallahatchie County, works in education, medicine, or farming. It is clear we are in a desolate, and poor, area. Abandoned buildings are almost as easy to find as occupied ones, and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out the difference. Mississippi feels like a different country, and lacks the art galleries, coffee shops, and mansions to which we have all grown accustomed in Bucks County. I am excited for the rest of the trip, not only because I know that we will continue to have fun and do some good for a few people down here, but also because I have already been exposed to so many aspects of the United States I have never seen before.
All in all, it was a great day, better than any of us expected, and we are all looking forward to more football, cards, and house building. I’ve already gotten a little sun burnt (sorry mom) but I’m sure by the end of the trip Mississippi will leave a much longer lasting mark on me than a little sun burn.