2017 Miner Challenge Trips


Santa Julia, Nicaragua- Water Access & Sustainability

Trip Leader: Sven Olberg

Trip Advisor: Jessica Haywood

Team International traveled to rural Santa Julia, Nicaragua to work with the women of the Gloria Quintanilla cooperative. The group constructed two water harvesters that will collect rainwater during the rainy season that can be used during the dry season. The team also helped with the process of creating organic fertilizer, which is used and sold by cooperative members. On top of these projects, the group picked coffee, dug irrigation trenches for banana trees, and shared jokes and laughs with the community members.


Anchorage, AK- Environmentalism & Cultural Differences

Trip Leader: Elizabeth Oberley

Trip Advisor: Kristen Gallagher

While the team is in town, they worked with Covenant House, which is the state’s largest youth shelter.  The Team also spent two days working to construct and repair a wildlife viewing tower at the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, which will allow visitors to safely view wildlife.  They also constructed new hiking trail down a steep bluff which provides access to the Anchorage Coastal     Wildlife Refuge.  Later in the trip, the team will worked with the Anchorage Community Land Trust to build a new shed for the farmers market and construct some raised beds for a community garden. 


Chicago Ridge, IL- Animal Welfare

Trip Leader: Mikayla Mockenhaupt

Trip Advisor: Tracie Devault

Team Chicago Ridge worked with the Animal Welfare League to address Animal Welfare.  On Sunday half of the team had the opportunity to go to an offsite adoption event at a PetSmart near the shelter with five dogs, while the rest of the team stayed at the shelter and cleaned, organized, and helped refurbish some of the older areas of the shelter. The first day allowed members of the team to see two different sides of the shelter and the inner workings of the shelter and some of the problems they faced on a daily basis. Monday and Tuesday morning, the entire team cleaned walls and kennels in the shelter. This would help prevent diseases within the shelter such as kennel cough. On Tuesday afternoon the supervisor at the shelter and another volunteer came to the campground where the team was residing with a few of their foster dogs. They showed the team informational videos about the shelter, talked to us about fostering, and some of their experiences working in the shelter. Wednesday morning was the team’s last day.  They spent the morning finishing up tasks in the shelter and saying goodbye to the dogs that they had met there. The team was happy to see that a lot of the dogs that we had become friends with on Sunday were already adopted by Wednesday.


Bastrop State Park, TX- Environmental Restoration

Trip Leader: Michael Janke

Trip Advisor: Darian Johnson Potts

The Bastrop team spent their Spring Break working on environmental restoration projects in the Buescher and Bastrop State Parks in Texas. On Sunday, Team Bastrop went to work at Buescher State park. Their guides were two retired men who are super passionate about volunteering to help these parks. They learned a ton about the history of both parks, which were built in the 1930s as a project by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Monday through Thursday the team worked in Bastrop State park, alongside a Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC) group. TxCC is a part of American Youth Works, which is part of AmeriCorps. The first two days they were channel clearing. This is an early step of making a new trail. There were tons of dead trees on the ground that had been killed in past fires and since fallen over. After the channel is clear they can go in and dig the actual tread. It was shocking to see how badly some recent forest fires hit Bastrop. It is estimated that 96% of the forest burned. Team Bastrop spent the time in areas of the park that are currently closed to the public, because the once well established trails are now nonexistent. The main work on Sunday was trail maintenance and widening. As one helper said, "people love seeing nature, but don't want it touching them." Their goal was to cut back branches that were within arms reach of the  center of the trail. They were also tasked with creating a new creek crossing, placing logs securely to be used like stepping stones. Throughout the day, they made two of these crossings, and covered several miles of trail. The most rewarding part of the day was having just finished a crossing, and a group of hikers arrived. The team let them try out the finished project, and the hikers were very excited and complimentary.  The last two days the team helped rehabbing a different stretch of trail. The TxCC crew had already completed this section, but afterwards a logging   vehicle had been sent in to cut trees that could potentially fall on the trail. While the vehicle could cut a lot of trees very fast, it also left ruts on the sides of and sometimes even on the trail. These ruts not only look bad, but also effect how the trail drains, causing quicker erosion and thus a less sustainable trail.

Biloxi, MS- Hunger and Homelessness

Trip Leader: Andrew Embrey

Trip Advisor: John Gallagher

We spent our first day of service at the Humane Society, where we helped the staff with everyday tasks such as walking the dogs, cleaning the cages, etc. The next day our group spent the first half of the day at Moore Community Home, helping with maintenance work and taking care of the kids. Moore Community Home provides childcare to low-income families in addition to occupational     training for women. The second half of the day we worked with the Boys and Girls club and helped the kids with their homework, played, and listened to their stories. We returned to the Boys and Girls club every day for the whole week and stayed from about 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm every day. The Boys and Girls club that we worked with operates through a city owned gym. After Hurricane Katrina hit, their facilities that were connected to a school were destroyed. The city of Biloxi lets the organization use the gym free of charge. Tuesday, we worked with two different organizations relating to environmental restoration. Half of the group went and worked with the Land Trust on environmental projects. The Land Trust’s goal is to acquire and restore land to make it available for public use. The second half of the group worked with the Audubon Society, where they cleared land for a public park.  In addition, the team had the opportunity to help prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless community in Biloxi. Aside from serving breakfast, the team sat down and talked with everyone as well. We got to learn their stories and learn about the community within Biloxi.


San Marcos, TX- Disaster Relief & Home Building

Team San Marcos partnered with the Saint Bernard Project in Texas in order to help a mother of four repair her home that had been damaged by a tornado and rain events. The tornado damaged her roof so rain water would infiltrate and degraded the structure of the house and living conditions. It had gotten to the point where she would have to wipe down each mattress with bleach before bed due to the mold growth in the house.  Instead of tearing down the home and rebuilding a new one, SBP repairs the existing home to shorten the construction time. The team was glad to help in this process. Our team worked on several projects ranging from installing drywall, lead paint removal, priming and painting the exterior and interior walls, laying flooring, and many others.  Our team aided SBP in their project timeline by taking them from 5 days behind schedule to on schedule by the time the team ended the project. The family is now that much closer to having their home, which has been in the family for multiple generations,  restored to the  conditions they remember.  13 volunteers were sent to work alongside the Saint Bernard Project and reconstruct a house that was damaged by severe storms.  The team dedicated 429 volunteer hours towards helping restore a family home to a safe and welcoming condition!