Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Adventures in Alternative Spring Break

As college students look for more ways to give back, Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips provide the opportunity for students to be immersed in service with local communities. This year, North Carolina Campus Compact VISTAs were part of four different trips. The VISTAs were involved at all stages of the process, from coordinating volunteer sites, to planning meals, to recruiting students. Student volunteers gave over 1,110 hours of service during their ASB trips!

The WFU students and VISTAs
At Wake Forest University, VISTA members Natasha Vos and Naijla Faizi planned a week's worth of activities for four students in the Winston-Salem area. This "staycation" allowed participants to give 28 hours of service to the community at five different service sites! Over the course of the week, the students volunteered at education, food insecurity, and health-related non profits. Not only did Natasha and Naijla plan the service the event, they also planned all meals, extra-curricular, and reflection activities. The small group of students provided the opportunity for deep engagement and reflection. At El Buen Pastor, the Wake ASB group prepared quesadillas for 75 children and later provided homework help. Over the course of the week, the group also volunteered at community gardens and a food bank.

At East Carolina University, VISTA member Hannah Paek planned an ASB "staycation" for 12 students in the Greenville community. The trip focused on poverty and youth. During the trip, the group stayed at the Greenville Community Shelter and over the course of the week, the students learned about poverty through simulation activities, including managing grocery shopping and meal preparation on a food stamp budget, and managing the local bus system. The students volunteered with Sparkle Her Night, an organization that helps low income high school girls obtain prom dresses, tutored children at a community center, and interacted with and prepared meals for shelter clients. The students had the opportunity to engage in a panel discussion about poverty in North Carolina. One ECU student called his ASB experience "humbling, passionate, and empowering."

ECU students sort donated clothing at the shelter.
An ECU student tutors at a community center. 

The team of HPU students and VISTAs packaging meals at Food and Friends.
At High Point University, a trio of VISTAs planned an ASB trip to Washington DC for 14 Bonner Leaders from HPU. Our VISTAs have been working with the Bonner Leaders all year, developing their skills and reflecting on their service experience. The trip focused on issues of hunger and homelessness. The group prepared nutritious food packets at Food and Friends, a non profit that serves those facing challenging illnesses, met with the National Coalition on Homelessness, and toured Washington D.C. with a focus on poverty issues.

At UNC-Greensboro, VISTA member Kali Hackett served as the learning partner for an ASB trip to Atlanta that focused on education and economic opportunity. As the students engaged in service, Kali served as a resource for students and trip leaders. Over the course of the week, the students worked with elementary school children, served and prepared meals at a community site, and worked on a beautification project.

The impact of these trips goes deeper than student's brief encounters with service. This haiku, courtesy of the of WFU trip, reflects on the ASB experience:

A week of service,
gardens, kids, community,
impact starts local.
WFU students plant seedling at the Neal Community Garden.