MLK Weekend of Service San Diego

This year our youth teams will primarily work in South Bay and serve low-income homeowners. We may start and finish a project in a weekend, or our teams may be a part of a long-term project. The work may include painting, yard maintenance, fence building or community projects.This school year marks Sierra Service Project’s 7th year offering Weekends of Service for local youth groups. Over the years we have planned a variety of service projects for youth to be involved in their communities – every weekend is unique!

Twelve SSP Experiences

Twelve SSP Experiences

by Liam Smith

Youth Board Member from Elk Grove United Methodist Church



Liam beautifying a park in Stockton alongside the local nonprofit Reinvent South Stockton.

My name is Liam Smith and I have just been chosen to serve on the Sierra Service Project’s Board of Directors. I have been on twelve SSP experiences in Chiloquin, Smith River, San Diego, Coarsegold, McDermitt, Susanville, South Los Angeles, and Stockton.

Each time I have been able to see growth in myself, others, and the communities SSP has served. My first SSP experience was a Middle School trip in Coarsegold and I remember being completely overwhelmed with a sense of love, passion, and commitment. Throughout my years of experience serving at SSP I have learned far more than just how to build a fence or paint a house, I have learned to love people better, love God better, and love our communities better.

After graduating from High School I plan to go to a four year university to get a major in either history or political science. While I don’t exactly know where I will be attending I plan to eventually become a pastor. I don’t exactly know where that will be taking me but I am super excited to find out where God is taking me.

While I don’t exactly know where I will be attending I plan to eventually become a pastor.

Serving on the Board will equip me with the experience I will need to be able to further myself in the near future. Being able to collaborate with people, share opinions, and gather new concepts and ideas will be able to further develop my thought process. This I believe will help me both in my immediate future and my college career.


Editor’s Note: Liam was able to serve during our summer program so many times because he came to SSP with his church and as an Individual youth. Learn more about SSP’s 2017 locations.

Successful San Diego Partnership

Successful San Diego Partnership

A thank you note from Freddy Arthur

Field Supervisor at San Diego Canyonlands


Our summer with SSP volunteers was wonderful! Once again, a measurable positive impact was made in and around our community’s canyons. 2015’s efforts of helping a neighbor to a canyon rim were quadrupled this year. Four elderly or disabled neighbors’ neglected yards were cleared of years of trash and debris and then mulched to control re-growth. This work benefited the entire canyon community by reducing fire hazards and improving the aesthetics of the canyon trail head’s surroundings. SSP volunteers also improved important trails in four canyon areas, bringing to us much needed engineering skills!

SSP’s volunteers, the numbers and variety, also proved to be a speed training for our newer staff members who had limited experience with volunteer management. I had a death in the family during the summer and I left for South Carolina on August 9th, leaving a now well-trained and experienced staff capable of managing large groups of volunteers in my, what looks to be extended, absence. This summer’s volunteers provided the gift of experience as well, thank you for that.

It was a pleasure coordinating events with Andrew, Lindsay, and Chris. They were so flexible when jobs were completed quickly and we needed volunteers sent to new locations on short notice, and the field team leaders were awesome. They ran a very efficient tight ship and their organizational efforts were much appreciated.

Thanks for another productive summer in City Heights, we look forward to the summer of 2017!



Freddy Arthur

Life Changing Moment Over the Border

By Ashley Minks

Youth from First United Methodist Church of Gilbert


A day that shook America: September 11, 2001. Before that major incident, many people could easily travel between countries and into America. Once we were attacked though, many things changed, including border security. A wall already covered the length of the border with Mexico, but to the leaders of the United States, it was not enough protection. A second and more secure wall was built between America and Mexico. This long fence stretches into the ocean, separating two different cultures. When I entered into Tijuana, I learned that my group and I would travel to Friendship Park, which is one of the only places where families and friends that are separated by the fence can meet. My friends that stayed behind in America, would meet at the other side of the fence and we would soon link pinkies, to have a firsthand experience that the many loved ones that are apart experience.

Ashley, fourth from the right in hoodie and shorts, on the Mexico side of the border.

Ashley, fourth from the right in hoodie and shorts, on the Mexico side of the border.

When I arrived at the park, the border wall in Tijuana was vibrantly colored with many murals and names of people that were physically separated by the wall. But looking through the small boxes left open by fencing material, I could see the American side was very different. There was no color, people, shops, or roads. I will just put it this way: there was dirt and a lot of bushes that covered miles of uninhabited land. I felt sad to see that my friends could not enter the land between two separate fences until border patrol checked the land multiple times. Even when the other visitors walked between the fences to meet those that were in Tijuana, they were only allowed to stand in one small circle, not passing designated posts. After meeting with my friends pinky to pinky, we prayed, and loaded back into the vans to travel to a men’s Salvation Army shelter.


There was no color, people, shops, or roads.

This place was a two story building where many people searching for a way to America would stay. Currently, the shelter was housing many people from Haiti, after they left Brazil, who allowed many Haitians to enter the country following the devastating hurricane and earthquake. Although Brazil had good intentions about allowing the people of Haiti into the country, many of the people have started leaving the country from persecution they are receiving from the Brazilian people. As I met many of the men and heard their stories, I realized how lucky of a life I was given by God. I grew up in a small Arizonan town that was very sheltered. I never truly experienced a life changing moment until today, when a young Haitian man told my group about traveling through many South American countries to reach Tijuana, in hopes of an easy passage into America. This man grew up with many brothers and sisters and left his home to try to make money to send home. After a morning of multiple testimonies, I went downstairs where I played dominoes with men that only spoke Creole, Portuguese, or Spanish. Let me tell you, taking Spanish One in high school does not prepare you for a day of attempting to translate stories in a foreign country.

I never truly experienced a life changing moment until today

After many hours in Mexico, my group got to head to the border. This was really eye-opening as well, to experience waiting in line for hours to go to the land of the free. I am so thankful for being born in America, and for having the life many wish to live. One wish I hold for the future is that the mindset that keeping human beings separated for being born on one side of a fence or another, will end.


Editor’s Note: Registration for the 2017 summer opens October and will be first-come first-served. Read more about the San Diego experience.


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  • What a joy to be in fellowship with the SSP community. Today’s meetup with Denver-based staff, board, and volunteer alumni, as well as new SSP friends, was inspiring and fun! Be on the lookout for an SSP meetup in your town - we may be there soon. 😊
  • We had a great time learning from and sharing with other home repair organizations like ASP and MountainTop (shirts pictured here) at the ReFrame Conference this week! We are stronger and deepen our impact when we collaborate.
  • We are SO thrilled to announce our 6 qualified Site Directors for the summer of 2019: Schylar Ferguson (Tsaile, AZ), Lea Le Rouzo (Chiloquin, OR), Kelsie Currie (Smith River, CA), Sarah Reynolds (Spokane, WA), and Co-Directors Joseph Makunga and Angelina Maniti (San Diego, CA). Show them some love in the comments below!

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