By Kiersten Ekkens
In 2018, a devastating fire swept through Paradise, California, and the surrounding regions, destroying homes and businesses. The Walla Walla University chaplain’s office responded by asking for donations to help the survivors. David Lopez, executive director for the Center for Humanitarian Engagement, was brought on board with the project and the first Community Action Relief Experience (CARE) was born. Volunteers traveled to Paradise to fill the needs that would arise in the moment. This approach was unique compared to the standard agenda driven approaches of other trips. The group’s goal was to be relevant to the needs that stood out around them.
While on the trip to Paradise, the idea for continuing CARE projects was born, and overtime it became CARE weekends. Each Sabbath afternoon at 2 p.m., the CHE gathers to invest in community projects. Their goal is always to be relevant, available, and without a strict agenda. The projects vary from week to week, some included working with local churches, feeding the homeless, and providing music and parties for nursing homes. Other programs have stemmed from the CARE weekends, including the Hey Neighbor Neighbor program, that brings neighbors together in service activities, and Free Intelligent Conversations, an idea originally created in Germany.
The CHE works in tandem at times with campus student churches including Circle Church, the Revival Project, and ASWWU Spiritual. It also partners with His Kids in Action for various projects.
The CHE meets each Sabbath afternoon at Foreman lobby at 2 p.m. or interested students can receive updates about upcoming projects through the CHE’s Instagram page.