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Each year during spring break, more than 100 Bucknell students choose to spend their week learning about cultures and societal issues in communities far from Bucknell, and serving those in need. Each alternative break experience is different, but all have something in common — they transform students' perspectives on the world, create strong bonds among students and connect students with communities in the U.S. and abroad.
"Aside from the work we do while we are there, this trip has a tremendous impact on the students who go. Students are challenged to move beyond their comfort zones, at which point they find things in themselves that they didn't know were there." -Tom Hackett, Class of 2014
Each spring for the past eight years, this student-run organization has traveled to the Dominican Republic. This year, the group handed out food in one of the most impoverished communities of Santo Domingo, assisted doctors and dentists as they administered basic medications and vaccinations and delivered medical donations as well as toys, clothes and books for children. Kristen Ronca '14 describes the BACES trip as an intense experience, the long lines of people highlighting the needs of the community being served.
Back on campus, BACES raises funds and awareness for its Educate-a-Child program. Contributions benefit students at a school sponsored by BACES' parent organization, ACES. The spring 2014 group visited the ACES school to interact with the children and assist with a construction project.
"[We] learned this trip was an opportunity to do more than just service, but learn about the Nicaraguan community, so we can educate others on campus and within our individual communities on the history and current situation in Nicaragua." -Brigade blog, March 2014
The Bucknell Brigade began in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua. Twice a year — over the winter and spring breaks — the Brigade travels to Nueva Vida, a resettlement community outside the capital of Managua, Nicaragua. Over the years, Bucknell teams have helped to establish and maintain a free health clinic there.
On this most recent trip, students learned how the Jubilee House Community (JHC) has helped establish sustainable economic opportunities like a women's sewing cooperative, and how that connects with Nicaragua's history and future. The group also helped with maintenance at a sesame processing plant run by JHC, worked in the health clinic pharmacy and painted its roof to stop rainwater from seeping inside.
"These students have made the most impact on me. The insights that they have gained from this trip are incredibly deep. I don't remember being this thoughtful, emotional and reflective when I was their age. And it's not just during the time set aside for reflection, it's any time that something strikes them, whether it's in the van, at dinner or just hanging out. It's really refreshing to overhear the serious conversations they have with each other." - Jeffery Campbell, Events & Technology Events Coordinator, staff participant
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the annual Civil Rights Alternative Spring Break, the spring 2014 group explored a new destination. While the past nine years have been spent in Memphis, Tenn., this year the students, faculty and staff traveled to Atlanta, Ga., and Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Ala.
The group learned about the history of the civil rights movement, visiting sites including Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr. were both senior pastors, The King Center, the National Voting Rights Museum and the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The students volunteered at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama packing 900 meals for students who may not have access to food during weekends. In addition, they helped clean and organize at the Washington Park Community Center of Montgomery, which provides after school programs, tutoring, summer day camp and financial mentoring for parents, connecting the civil rights movement to the realities of present day.
"Countless community members thanked us for our work and we are all incredibly grateful for their kindness. We had an amazing week showing this community the best that Bucknell can be." - Audrey Tolbert '15
Habitat for Humanity builds simple, affordable houses for people who need them around the world. Bucknell's chapter began in 1993 and works primarily with the Union/Snyder County and Harrisburg, Pa., affiliates, but during spring break, they travel to various locations to volunteer.
This year's group of 12 students and three faculty and staff traveled to Albemarle, N.C., to partner with Stanly County Habitat for Humanity. Each day, they worked for six hours on the job site and, during the course of the week, they helped construct two sheds and a deck, fix a porch, lay flooring and insulate an attic. They learned many practical skills and saw first-hand the impact they had on the community.
"We ended our day by listening to a first-hand story of a doctor who experienced Katrina in a local charity hospital. Some of the stories and pictures opened our eyes to the devastation and the humane gestures of the community." - Katrina Recovery Team March 2014 blog.
The Katrina Recovery Team has been going to the Gulf Coast region twice a year since 2006. Each trip includes a group of students, faculty and staff helping to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The spring 2014 group spent the week working with the St. Bernard Project on jobs including sealing wood against mold, painting, digging holes and and working at Grow Dat Youth Farm — a community farm that provides employment for high school students across New Orleans. The group also explored New Orleans history and culture, hearing what it was like during Katrina from the perspective of a doctor at a charity hospital there and attending a ribbon-cutting for a family who have been waiting since Katrina to return to their home.
For more, check out the Katrina Recovery Team blog.
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