Students on the Rural Plunge traveled to Naugatuck, West Virginia on the Kentucky border over Spring Break from 2002 to 2005 and worked with Big Laurel Learning Center. CNR Rural Plunge students participated in service projects as needed, sharing in the lives of those with whom they served. Examples of the types of service included physical labor, serving meals, day care, tutoring, and visiting the imprisoned.
The Appalachian Mountains run from northern Georgia through the Carolinas, the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The harsh topography with its lack of passable roads isolated some areas for generations. The result was a culture that harkened back decades. Traditions and customs were almost frozen in time. The resource-rich region suffered from exploitation by coal and timber barons. The purchase and subsequent absentee ownership of mineral rights in the region are one of this century's great social injustices.
The countryside has been used and abused by outsiders, its people left with little to show for it. Appalachia's people have been alternately ignored and rescued by government and private and public social institutions since the early part of this century. For the most part, the people of Appalachia have suffered and acknowledged all this with quiet bemusement. The best Appalachian humor deals with outsiders and their attempts to “save” them.
CNR students entered the Rural Plunge experience fully, exploring the idea of living simply so that others might simply live. The groups lived together closely for the week, sharing responsibilities, prayer, ideas, fun, and hard work. This part of the Plunge was an important sign that one cannot do anything in isolation!