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College Student Summer Vacation: See America and Fight Poverty

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." In the United States, volunteerism and public service are considered integral parts of democracy. Volunteers contribute to the greater social good and their act of volunteering can reinforce a sense of civic responsibility. Finding the time and means to contribute can be difficult, particularly for young people who are pursuing higher education or starting careers, but programs such as “Bike and Build” are specifically geared toward young people.

Eric Davis is spending this summer biking across the United States. Along the way, he is helping build homes for low-income families. He said, "I just want to go out there and be able to see the country in a unique way and help people along the way."

Rather than spending the summer at home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Eric and his sister Maddie have joined a youth-oriented volunteer group program called Bike and Build. It’s part fundraising, part adventure and part public service. To participate, each volunteer had to raise $4,000. Half of that money goes to the trip. The other half will be donated to housing projects in cities across America such as Lynchburg, Virginia, in the southern United States.

Volunteer Peggy Branch said, "I think that is amazing that they would do something like that. You don't find too many people who would do something like that."

During this 60-day program, 130 young people will bike across the country, help build over 32 homes, and raise almost $300,000 to alleviate poverty in America. "It feels good knowing that young people can help,” Davis said. “I like that idea."

To save money, they will sleep in churches and synagogues and eat donated meals from the local communities. Back home, Eric and Maddie's mother, Janice Davis, expects her children to return changed by the sights they see, the friendships they form and the act of helping those less fortunate.

"I really do think my kids will be different kids when they get to the other end of the United States,” she said. “I really think that it will have a major impact on their views on life and maybe the direction they're going to take in their studies or careers."

Today the direction they are worried about heading in is west- they have 48 kilometers to go before they can rest and there is a chance of showers in the afternoon.