MCC’s Sharing With Appalachia People (SWAP) program is typically known for its home repair work and service opportunities for visiting groups. But SWAP’s partnerships in the region extend beyond making homes safe, warm and dry.
SWAP and the Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Ky., have been working together for 40 years. The settlement school provides housing for the SWAP Hindman location coordinators in addition to helping bring cultural awareness for the volunteer groups who visit throughout the year. Hindman United Methodist Church also provides facilities for the volunteer groups and headquarters for SWAP’s work in the region.
The work of MCC, both domestically and internationally, relies on the expertise of local partners like these. If not for these collaborations, MCC’s effectiveness would be minimal. Through these partnerships more needs and challenges are addressed in the community.
An important component of SWAP is dispelling stereotypes of Appalachia through forming relationships with the community and learning about the rich history and heritage of the region. “(We) view MCC volunteers as members of our staff, who do the advancement work of our school in the community,” said Brent Hutchinson, the school’s executive director.
May Stone and Katherine Pettit founded the Hindman Settlement School in 1902 when public schools were not accessible until the 1920’s. By providing a space for progressive learning, community enrichment, and cultural exploration, their programs fill the gaps within the public education system in the county.
Art education and Dyslexia services are two cornerstone programs of the school. Hindman Settlement School is the only provider of Dyslexia services in central Appalachia for people who cannot afford the treatment fees out of pocket. By servicing 200 elementary age students, the schools wants no child to enter fourth grade without reading at grade level.
Randy Wilson, the folk arts director, is integral in keeping the arts alive in Knott County. Currently there are no music and only one art teacher in the county, so Wilson steps in by visiting the schools and highlighting traditional Appalachian arts and crafts.
The work of the settlement school meets people and families at important junctures providing opportunities to see their lives differently by engaging over the long period to see the community grow and develop in positive ways. The school looks forward to continued partnership with MCC through SWAP.