Lakers choose service through AB, CM over sun tans for spring break 2012
While some students visited hot vacation spots with friends and family for spring break, two Grand Valley State University organizations, Campus Ministry and Alternative Breaks, sent students around the world to volunteer.
Alternative Breaks sent out 13 service trips within the U.S., reaching as far south as Florida, as far east as Maryland and as far west as Missouri. Students chose from the following service issues: affordable housing, children at risk, disaster relief, domestic violence, hunger and homelessness, individuals with disabilities, LGBT awareness, organic farming, park preservation, refugee resettlement, sustainability, wildlife refuge, or youth and education.
Alternative Breaks members applied and were accepted into the program without knowledge of the specific issue or location in which he/she will be working; they are only informed of their particular location just before break.
Kristoffer de Villa, president of Alternative Breaks, said the locations of the trips are kept a secret because they want participants to choose a trip based on their personal service interests rather than where they consider the best vacation spot to be.
The motivation for students to join these service trips and the work that they hope to do varies tremendously.
Alternative Breaks site leader Megan Boundy went on the individuals with disabilities trip last year and decided to attend the wildlife refuge trip this year, in which students cleared four miles of beach to prepare for sea turtle nesting. Boundy said she wanted to try something new and loves being outdoors, which is what the trip is all about.
“We will be working with an organization that works with rebuilding a town that was basically destroyed by a hurricane,” said junior Jenna Brackett before she attended the disaster relief trip. “I chose this trip because it’s an area I don’t have much experience in but would like to know more about. While on the trip I hope to learn how the nonprofit organization (that we work with) runs. I also hope to learn how the families have been coping with losing their homes and neighbors.”
De Villa said the main thing that sets Alternative Breaks apart from other service organizations was the promotion of service learning, which means that the members combined aspects of education and service together so that they worked with a purpose and were able to immerse themselves in the issue.
They did this by following three pillars: reflection, education and service. At the end of every day, volunteers gathered and discuss what they learned. De Villa said sharing experiences helps to open people up to a different light, and he added that volunteers leave the trip with more than service hours behind their belt.
“As a junior, and a social work major I can apply almost everything I learn through AB directly to my daily life,” Brackett said. “I feel more inspired that I can make a difference because of AB and will carry this through the rest of my life.”
Campus Ministry sent out 17 trips around the country and to Guatemala, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.
“These trips involve different service activities including physical labor projects, homeless ministry and after-school kids programs,” said Kristin Repucci who went on the Guatemala trip. “Every trip is different, and they never really turn out how you expect them to.”
The members who attended the Guatemala trip worked with an organization called Worldwide Hands to help build a Christian school in the city of San Cristobal.
Campus Ministry member Brad Teeple joined other members in the trip to El Salvador.
“Our main service opportunity while being there will be running the skate park there, which gives the kids an alternative for a hang out place rather then being on the streets,” Teeple said before he left.
He added that he was most looking forward to seeing firsthand the issues that are currently effecting El Salvador and participating in the effort to ease the problems. “I wanted to go on an international trip to get the sense of service needs outside of the US and to experience a different culture.”
Alternative Breaks and Campus Ministry groups are very similar when it comes to their goal of serving their community. Repucci said that the only big difference was the Ministry’s incorporation of religion.
“Alternative Breaks is different than Campus Ministry spring breaks, but I’ve heard that they are really awesome, as well,” she said. “The only major difference is that Alternative Breaks does not have the religious component that Campus Ministry trips do; we spend a portion of our time on the trip praying together and doing devotionals and worshiping and such.”
Students returned from their trips during the last few days of break.
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