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MDS volunteer Andrew Weaver, from his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, reflected on why he keeps serving, year after year.

Life-changing experiences on the Louisiana bayou

Meet volunteer Andrew Weaver Q: WHERE HAVE YOU VOLUNTEERED? A: I have volunteered as a crew leader in Marianna, Florida, and twice in La Grange, Texas. I also served as a short-term volunteer in Lake County, California, and Fort Myers, Florida. Q: WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK? A: The relationships I have built with other volunteers and the chance to build new relationships. Q: HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A VOLUNTEER? A: I was asked by a friend if I was interested in volunteering for a week.

Then he contracted COVID-19, spending more than a week in the hospital. When he finally felt well enough to clean up his damaged home, a cold snap brought subfreezing temperatures. “We spent some time living in a tent with the kids,” said Parfait. “I mean, bad after bad after bad. Every step we took, it was like getting pushed back again. If there wasn’t bad luck—there was no luck.” His oldest son began to feel anxious and had trouble sleeping. “I finally took my son out on the road here,” he said, pointing to the dirt road leading up his house. “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s dark out here on the bayou! I told him, ‘Look, son, all we got is God and the stars. The rest of it—is just stuff.” All around him is evidence his luck has changed as volunteers constructed an elevated

The new home of Lena and Paul Deon being built by MDS Storm Aid volunteers in Dulac, Louisiana, will replace their house that was damaged by Hurricane Ida in 2021.

MDS volunteer Annie Glick from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, paints the home of Abraham & Robin Parfait in Dulac Louisiana.


Abraham Parfait

A: There are always little moments that absolutely make it worth any sacrifice you are making to be there. One of my favorites is when the long-term staff sit around and tell stories of projects and experiences from years prior. Every year, going back is better than before because I’m more likely to reconnect with volunteers I’ve met before.

Abraham Parfait is a bayou man through and through. A resident of Dulac, Louisiana, stories spilled out of him, drifting into the ears of the MDS and Storm Aid volunteers building his new house. “I’ve got two boys, three and 10,” he said. “I’m 50 years old. I’m on disability,” he explained. Just as he and his wife put their nest egg into a new home, Hurricane Ida took everything, slamming through Dulac in August 2020 as a Category 4 storm. “We lost everything,” said Parfait. “My wife even lost all her baby pictures.” “The stars and God— that’s all we got”

1,150-square-foot home for Parfait and his family. As the group—all from the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania area—painted the exterior, Parfait sang their praises. “They are amazing workers,” he said. “You don’t have to babysit them.” Most of the volunteers were under 25, and many were first-time volunteers who rode a bus for more than 20 hours to come help in the bayou. Project Coordinator Eli Stoltzfus said he believes there will be plenty of work for volunteers in Dulac for months to come. “If you go down the road, there’s so much damage,” he said, adding that he sees what a life-changing experience volunteering can be for a young person. “Oftentimes they want to come again—or stay longer,” he said. — Susan Kim

“There are always little moments that absolutely make it worth any sacrifice you are making to be there.”


12 behind the hammer

behind the hammer 13

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