West Virginia

Appalachia in Transition



Join us for a week-long hands-on learning experience working with and learning from communities striving for a new, post-coal future.

This program is available for adult, youth over 14 years old, and multi-generational groups.


Why travel to West Virginia?

West Virginia has significant environmental, social, and economic injustices that revolve around the state’s long history of coal mining. Some have called this part of Appalachia “third-world” America due to it’s high rates of poverty.

After stopping in the state capital to learn more about West Virginia and hear an overview of many of the challenges residents face, participants will travel deep into the Appalachia region of the state to have a hands-on experience working with and learning from communities struggling for a new, post-coal future.

As we all grapple with the current political moment, it is more important than ever to cross boundaries within our own country; to humbly listen and try to make sense of the various struggles people are facing.

Which organizations or people will we visit?

UUCSJ works closely with the UU congregation in Charleston, WV so that groups may be able to begin and end the program in Charleston. While in Charleston, we will learn from members of the congregations and local grassroots groups about the issues facing West Virginia today.

From Charleston, the group will take a journey out to the Appalachian mountains to work Appalachian Community Partners/ Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) in Beard’s Fork. SALS has years of experience hosting groups of all ages and allow a deep immersion into the community culture, while also allowing groups to join construction projects throughout the week.

How can our congregation organize a journey to West Virginia?

If your group is interested in organizing a journey to West Virginia, please contact info@uucsj.org with your desired travel dates. Journeys are approximately one week long, from Saturday evening through the following Saturday morning. UUCSJ requires a minimum of four months of planning time for this journey.

How much does this journey cost?

Cost: For a group of 10 approximately $800 per person, not including airfare. The price will fluctuate depending on the need for rental vehicles while in West Virginia.

Financial aid is available for up to 50% (75% for youth groups) of program costs based on need and is awarded on a first come, first serve basis. All participants are strongly encouraged to fill out the financial aid request section of the journey application.

For additional fundraising we recommend that participants use Faithify, the Unitarian Universalist crowd funding website, which can help individuals raise money to cover their costs.

Sample Itinerary

Click here to download a sample itinerary for this program. Specific activities will vary depending on time of year and availability of people and organizations.

Additional Resources to learn more about West Virginia

Hollow - An Interactive Documentary

This interactive documentary is an incredible experience, it takes the viewer through the hopes, dreams and struggles of one of the poorest countries in the country (McDowell Couny, WV).

Guardian Video on McDowell County

This video, entitled “Why the poorest county in West Virginia has faith in Donald Trump,” was made during the 2016 election cycle. It sheds light on the realities of people’s lives in rural Appalachia.

Appalachia's Sacrifice

This recent article in the New York Times outlines the unjust situation of drinking water in Appalachia, and the struggles surrounding the fight for clean water.

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