Academy of Holy Angels Students Volunteer at a Farm in Rural West Virginia

Academy of Holy Angels Students Volunteer at a Farm in Rural West Virginia

The students gained a new perspective for their own lives by volunteering on a farm in rural West Virginia.

While the Academy of the Holy Angels (AHA) in Demarest, NJ, was closed for the winter break, AHA Director of Campus Ministry Kathleen Sylvester accompanied three students to Nazareth Farm in rural West Virginia for a volunteer trip. Angel volunteers Janella Osbourne, Kayla Pringle, and Katarina Katzarov spent their days making home repairs and carrying out construction projects for local homeowners who have limited resources.

Osbourne, a freshman from Teaneck, said she felt a sense of community with the staff and volunteers. Visitors to the farm may only take a limited number of showers during their stay, and participate in “energy fasts," or periods when those on the farm are not permitted to use electricity. These experiences, Osbourne noted, gave her a sense of life without running water, heat, and electricity.

“As I visited many work sites, I really started to realize how much more I should be grateful for the things I have. Many of the homeowners had no running water or any heating in their homes, but, at the same time, they were the happiest and most joyous people I’ve ever seen,” Osbourne added.

Pringle, a junior from Suffern, New York, said she was excited when she arrived at the farm, but immediately felt at ease when she was greeted with friendly, welcoming hugs. This young woman was particularly moved by her work at “Wayne’s World,” the hilltop residence of a man named Wayne.

“What we came to learn is that Wayne lives atop that hill in a small house without any electricity,” Pringle said.

As Pringle's team built Wayne a shed, he showed them extraordinary kindness, ensuring they had everything they needed, including heat during their lunch break.

“It astounded me that someone who had little was willing to offer up everything to us,” Pringle reflected, noting that she would like to emulate Wayne’s example and share his life ethic with the AHA community. “If we have so much to give, we need to give the most we can to be like Wayne, who had so little and was willing to give so much.”

This winter’s trip was a return voyage for Katzarov, a senior from Clifton, who previously volunteered in 2017.

"My happiest moments of the week were at the work sites, and especially the long drives back to the farm," she said, explaining that she and her team talked and laughed on these rides.

During their stay, Katzarov and her group built three porches for local residents. Their collaboration reminded Katzarov why she decided to attend the Naval Academy: She plans to dedicate her life to serving and providing security for others. “It again showed me the difference I can make in the world, or even to one person, just by being me,” she said of her work as a Nazareth Farm volunteer.

The Academy of the Holy Angels
315 Hillside Avenue, Demarest