Living Outside 'You'
Student takes welding skills to children's home in Middle East
text and photos by George W. Settle III, welding and fabrication engineering technology student
In summer 2014, welding and fabrication engineering technology student George W. Settle III trekked to the Middle East, bound for the Home of Hope, where he hoped to teach welding skills to a few of the children living there – many used, abused or abandoned, picked up by police from the streets of Beirut. In the process, the children taught him.
"I learned that, while most of us take for granted a loving embrace and a tender kiss, there are kids that are dying for just a hint of such tenderness; dying to be loved," he said. During his stay, he wrote several notes to supporters back home.
"I have found that writing these letters is extremely hard for me to do," he wrote in one such correspondence. "How does someone describe a place where there is happiness and sadness, hope and depression, love and hate, every day, all the time? I shall do my best!"
Here, excerpts from Settle's letters home:
In the morning of my first day here, I took a stroll into the area where the kids live. As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, trying to process in my mind this new environment, a tiny little boy showed up out of nowhere. He looked up at me, gave me a huge smile, grabbed my hand and started leading me to where all his friends were. I believe this was his way of saying, "Look, guys! I found a new toy!"
This is how it has been ever since! Any time that I make my way into the kids' area, I am swarmed by seven or eight kids, generally speaking to me in broken English or full Arabic. Any time that I am not working, I am playing with the kids.
The work here in regards to welding is quite extensive and will keep me and my three welding apprentices quite busy. … Our project is a vertical extension to the playground fence. Currently, the kids are not allowed to play football (soccer) because of the fly balls that make their way over to the extremely disgruntled neighbors. This extension will add … 1.75 meters to the current 4-meter-high fence.
What I have been doing when welding is not an option (i.e. no power) is maintenance work: fixing beds and dressers, cutting old brackets off the walls, organizing the shop, and doing just about anything needing done. The fun thing about doing these jobs is I always have many little volunteers eager and ready to help.
After much complication, the fence extension for the playground has been completed! How do you get enough power out to the playground 150 feet away without buying a $100 extension cord? You can't. What time of day can you realistically work without becoming fried? Between 5 and 10 a.m. How do you work quickly with boys that don't speak English? You don't. (I now understand why the Tower of Babel was never completed.) How do you hang fencing 15 feet up without the help of scaffolding or a lift? Slowly, patiently, and out of sight of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)!
To be real, there have been ups and downs with the kids. I have had some great times with them, and I have had times that I needed to step away from them. The violence these kids have known … causes for a great deal of depression, anger and rebelliousness.
Though there is bad, there has also been much good. These past few weeks, I have had the privilege to teach dancing, diving/swimming, random gymnastic stunts and boxing. I have had the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with the older boys while acting as their personal trainer in the gym and to develop relationships with the older girls while making a fool of myself in Zumba. The recent favorite activity for the middle-school-age kids is this: 1) I lie on a mattress; 2) Six to 10 kids grab hold of my arms, legs, head and torso in attempts to restrain me; 3) I break out; and 4) repeat. This game is generally played before bed, in hopes to tire them out. I am uncertain if it helps them fall asleep, but it certainly works for me!
I finally got the opportunity to teach three boys the basics of welding! I taught them the basic setup of the AC stick welder, some electrode manipulation techniques, and the minimal safety requirements for welding. In teaching these boys, I learned two things: First, it is easier to teach a boy who knows nothing about welding than it is to teach a boy who knows how to weld wrong. The boy who knows nothing will listen to everything you tell him. The boy who knows how to weld wrong doesn't listen but rather insists that he already knows how to weld. And second, the problem with educating the boys on safety is they immediately disregarded it; this is due to the culture they live in.
My last day was what you might consider "bitter-sweet." The kids and staff organized a huge birthday/farewell surprise party for me; their gifts to me were 60 letters and a make-shift cake of crackers. The sad journey of goodbyes was probably the hardest part of my time there! During my final walk-through, I was flooded with dozens of hugs, kisses and – more gifts! These gifts consisted of small knick-knacks, like plastic crosses and necklaces, their personal stuffed animals, bracelets off their arms, and even a boy's small yellow notebook. The beauty of these gifts was not that they were expensive, but they were among the only things these kids had! The types of things they said to me over and over again through this heart-wrenching process were: "We love you," "We are going to miss you," and "When are you coming back?!" ■
Peace Corps Mission Helps to Guide Career
Photos courtesy of Richard Ashworth, '67
More than 40 years before George W. Settle III’s trek to teach welding to children at Home of Hope in Lebanon, a young graduate of Penn College’s immediate predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College, traveled to Jamaica with a similar purpose.
Richard Ashworth, who graduated in 1967 with a two-year certificate in auto body repair and refinishing, began work immediately in an auto body-repair shop in State College.
"After a few years working in a body shop, I happened to see a poster in the post office in State College that read: 'Skilled Workers Needed for Peace Corps,’" he said.
"Teaching! I never taught anyone anything before in my life," Ashworth said.
Nonetheless, his interest was piqued, and he considered what skills he could apply to a Peace Corps teaching assignment.
He applied, passed language aptitude tests and completed two months of intensive Peace Corps training before receiving an assignment in 1969 with the Ministry of Labour Industrial Training Program in Jamaica, West Indies.
"It was literally 'the toughest job I ever loved,’" he said.
"After two years of very hard work as a welding instructor in Jamaica, the result was successful beyond my wildest dreams," Ashworth said. "Eighty percent of all trainees I had during that time passed a comprehensive industry-administered practical and written exam. Those trainees were then capable of contributing to the Jamaican economy and supporting their families. I was able to pass on to others, of another culture, skills originating from WACC."
The experience led Ashworth to a long teaching career, first at Middle Bucks Area Vocational School, later as a technical trainer for Chrysler Corp., and since 1999, as an automotive instructor at Columbia-Greene Community College in New York.
by Jennifer A. Cline, writer/editor-One College Avenue