Sharing With Appalachian People

katieSWAP (Sharing With Appalachian People) is a service program of the Mennonite Central Committee that provides safe, warm and dry housing for families living in substandard housing in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. This program is provided to residents in partnership with Hindman Settlement School and local churches.

The program draws volunteers of all ages from many parts of the country. Work groups travel to Knott County and are housed by a partner church. In the past year, the Hindman SWAP Program hosted 15 groups of volunteers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and New Jersey, and worked to improve 15 area homes during the summer months. Projects completed by our more than 200 volunteers included building wheelchair ramps, widening exterior doors, installing new doors, windows and floors, replacing electrical panels and faulty wiring, repairing leaky roofs, putting insulation in walls and floors, rebuilding decks, digging drainage ditches, and the list goes on and on. Many of our homeowners served this year were widows and were referred by partner agencies.

Another major component of SWAP is to educate volunteers about the history and culture of this area, the effects of poverty in Appalachia, and reflection about service to others. This year volunteers participated in evening sessions consisting of music presentations by local musicians (including Hindman Settlement School staff Randy Wilson and Jacob Mack-Boll), weekly visits to the Hindman School of Luthiery and a square dance. Opportunities for conversations with local people were provided to discuss various aspects of living in Appalachia. Homeowners are encouraged to give back to the program by helping with the work if they are able to, serving snacks or meals to volunteers, or providing financial support.

Without the support of Hindman Settlement School and local church partners, the work of SWAP would not happen in Knott County.