An Alternative Spring Break
Volunteering during spring break can mean a whole host of different things. Especially since Hurricane Katrina, college students all over the country have been signing up for “Alternative Spring Break” programs, international and domestic. Not only are these programs an opportunity to travel and see the world, they are also good work experience to add to a resume and a way to meet new people and connect with a community in need.
First, it is important to do some introspection and determine what exactly you are hoping to get out of the experience. Do research on how to fulfill that interest or desire and find a part of the world you would like to see. There are so many programs to choose. Building animal shelters, teaching English as a second language, working at an orphanage, or helping communities with environmental projects are some of the options available to students wishing to participate. Many of these are with Habitat for Humanity, United Way, American Red Cross, or other well known organizations.
So, how do you find out what is out there? Check out your college or universities Web site or drop by the career center for listings of programs and to fill out the application. There are often Volunteer Fairs on campus as well for students looking to explore all their options.
Alternative Spring Break programs deal with issues within communities locally, nationally, and globally. Usually these are hands-on projects like community building, housing and poverty, education, or disaster relief. Because supplies and travel expenses are a factor, program costs can range anywhere from $200 to $2,000. The benefits are that it’s a short term commitment as opposed the years demanded from other volunteer opportunities. In addition, students are allowed to solicit donations however possible, in order to finance their trip. Scholarships are also readily available.
There will be free time to explore and soak up the local community you are stationed in, but don’t expect to get away with slacking. It is expected that all participants attend the mandatory meetings and events, attend group fundraisers, and contribute to the project each day during the trip. Generally, meetings are held weeks before the departure date to prepare students and let them get acquainted with group leaders and other members. It would be almost impossible to have constant supervision for each participant at all times of the trip, so students are held responsible for their actions. Drinking and illegal drug-use are obviously not kosher, and programs won’t hesitate to send you packing, making you finance your own impromptu release from the job site.
Deadlines are fast approaching for Alternative Spring Break trips. If you were not on the ball this year, there are always Maymester and summer trip options to choose from as well. In most participants’ experience, it is a life changing opportunity to step outside the safe bubble of the college environment and into a remote foreign land or struggling region of the U.S. The local people are always welcoming and grateful for the help received. Hearing their personal stories can be quite enlightening. It is definitely an eye-opening alternative to the cliché drunk-fest taking place in the Florida pan-handle during March.
By Carrie McCloud