Alternative Breaks offers unique and rewarding volunteer trips
While many of their peers were spending spring break lounging on the beach, a motivated group of about 100 CU students were improving communities all over the U.S. through Alternative Breaks.
“I think [Alternative Breaks] exposes you to people you’d never be exposed to and helps you understand the issues they’re dealing with on a daily basis,” Deanielle Christopher, 21, a senior international affairs major and Alternative Breaks participant coordinator said. “It goes past what you learn in higher education.”
Alternative Breaks is part of the Volunteer Clearing House at CU that provides community-based service trips to students during university holidays. Over this spring break, nine opportunities were available, including working with AIDS Project Los Angeles, helping with housing construction projects in Mexico and working at a domestic violence shelter in Kansas City.
Alexander Rowan, a 21-year-old junior English major, said that his trip to Biloxi, Mississippi gave him a different view of the community that was hit by Hurricane Katrina.
“We met one man who had stayed during the storm,” Rowan said. “He said he was 64 and had fought in Vietnam, but Katrina was the scariest thing he had been through.”
Rowan spent his week in Biloxi gutting a house for mold removal, handing out lunch at a Salvation Army and taking a survey of community members’ needs for the local recovery center.
Other students traveled to Yosemite in northern California to build a hiking trail along the North Fork River. Lizzy Jelinek, 19, a sophomore MCDB major, said restoring the 1930’s trail without machines was gratifying.
“The most rewarding experience was hiking the trail the last day,” Jelinek said. “It was so long and I kept thinking, ‘we did this.'”
While Alternative Breaks has always offered spring break trips, the program is expanding to offer trips during winter and summer breaks. For this summer, trips are being organized for work at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Applications are still being accepted for the Pine Ridge trip and can be found on their Web site.
Rowan said his trip was a rewarding adventure and other students should consider spending their next break with Alternative Breaks.
“I think one of the most important reasons to do a project like this is because you are able to directly affect people’s lives in a positive way,” Rowan said. “You gain so much invaluable knowledge about others that is utterly life changing.”
You can contact Campus Press Staff Writer Morgan Keys at email@example.com.