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Student Takes Welding Skills to Children’s Home in Middle East

Pennsylvania College of Technology student George W. Settle III visited the Middle East this summer with plans to teach a handful of boys how to weld. After his seven-week visit, he learned far more than he taught.

Settle, of Dillsburg, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in welding and fabrication engineering technology at the college. He spent seven weeks at Home of Hope in the village of Kehale, Lebanon, about 10 miles from Beirut. The home provides shelter, education, socialization and recreation for street children, many of whom have been used, abused or abandoned.

“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,” Settle said.

Penn College student George W. Settle III, of Dillsburg, gathers with residents of Home of Hope, a facility for street children near Beirut, Lebanon. Settle, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in welding and fabrication engineering technology, spent seven weeks at the home to teach welding and make repairs.
Penn College student George W. Settle III, of Dillsburg, gathers with residents of Home of Hope, a facility for street children near Beirut, Lebanon. Settle, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in welding and fabrication engineering technology, spent seven weeks at the home to teach welding and make repairs.

Settle, who became familiar with Home of Hope through childhood neighbors who moved to the Middle East, arranged for the volunteer trip and traveled solo. While his plan was to spend the bulk of his seven weeks teaching basic welding skills to some of the home’s older boys, his time was mainly spent in other ways.

“I have come to realize that you can plan plans, but you cannot plan results,” he said.

Nonetheless, his welding skills were put to good use: adding a 1.75-meter vertical extension to a 4-meter high playground fence to keep soccer balls from flying into disgruntled neighbors’ yards, building a welding table, creating a steel rod fence and making metal art.

When unable to weld due to planned villagewide electricity shutdowns, Settle completed projects around the house: building small tables for the boys’ clothes, fixing cabinets, organizing the shop – even teaching salsa dancing.

He also spent time just playing with the children, who ranged in age from 2 to 17. In that time, he learned difficult lessons: watching the effects of violent backgrounds on some of the children and rationing water among them because of a shortage.

Penn College student George W. Settle III, of Dillsburg, works to add a vertical extension to a playground fence at Home of Hope, a facility for street children near Beirut, Lebanon.
Penn College student George W. Settle III, of Dillsburg, works to add a vertical extension to a playground fence at Home of Hope, a facility for street children near Beirut, Lebanon.

In the final days of his stay, he taught three boys the basics of welding.

“In teaching these boys, I learned two things,” Settle said. “First, it is easier to teach a boy that knows nothing about welding than it is to teach a boy that knows how to weld wrong. … And second, the problem with educating the boys on safety is that they immediately disregarded it; this is due to the culture they live in.”

Settle hopes that by learning a new skill, the boys will be encouraged.

“Really, what the kids need is something new, something fresh to open their minds,” he said, hoping to inspire future volunteers for the home that was established 15 years ago by the Lebanese Evangelical Society.

After weeks of work and play with the home’s 67 children, Settle prepared to say goodbye.

“The kids and staff organized a huge birthday/farewell surprise party for me; their gifts to me were 60 letters and a makeshift cake of crackers,” Settle said. “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!”

Settle is already planning his next trip. He hopes to return to Home of Hope during Penn College’s winter break, this time leading a group of five volunteers.

For information about Penn College’s bachelor-degree, associate-degree and certificate welding majors, call 570-327-4520.

For more about the college, which is celebrating its Centennial throughout 2014, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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