April 01, 2013

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Spring Break list:

1. work in clinic in Nueva Vida — check

2. deliver Meals on Wheels in Memphis — check

3. build homes in Rocky Mount — check

4. deliver food and medical supplies in the Dominican Republic — check

Alternative Spring Breaks have been a tradition at Bucknell University since 1999. This year, 52 students participated in service-learning trips to Nicaragua, to Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, to North Carolina, and to the Dominican Republic.

Bucknell Brigade
Since 1999, Bucknellians have been volunteering in Nicaragua, making three service trips a year. Most recently, Brigade members spent four days working on assorted projects including painting, leveling an area for a roadway, building a small brick wall and working in the Nueva Vida clinic and pharmacy.

"I traveled on the Brigade in January of my freshman year, and spent much of these last three years planning Brigade fundraisers," said Katie McAvoy, a senior majoring in cell biology/biochemistry. "I wanted to go back to witness for myself changes that have been made as a result of the fundraising committee's efforts.

"There are so many highlights on this trip, it's hard to just pick one out. I enjoyed being in the health clinic in Nueva Vida, organizing medicines, working in the pharmacy, painting the exterior and reading to the children who were waiting to see the doctor. But my favorite aspect was the ability to interact with the amazing Nicaraguan people."

Civil Rights trip
Begun in 2005, the annual Civil Rights trip combines learning about the movement by visiting key locations including Central High School in Little Rock, where the Little Rock Nine integrated the school in 1957, and the University of Mississippi, where James Meredith became the first black undergraduate to be admitted in 1961.

"We did some service learning in Memphis, delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors through the Memphis Inter-Faith Association, founded in 1968 as an inter-faith organization to promote social justice in Memphis," said Sue Ellen Henry, associate professor of education. Her 12-year-old son accompanied the group on the trip.

Students on the trip also explored the contemporary civil rights situation by learning about life in schools and communities in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Habitat for Humanity
The Bucknell chapter of Habitat for Humanity, organized in 1993, partnered with students from Stockton College in New Jersey to finish one home and frame another. "On Wednesday morning, we arrived at the site of a new home that only had the concrete foundation poured," said Audrey Tolbert, a sophomore majoring in cell biology/biochemistry. "By Friday afternoon, we had constructed the exterior walls, framed the interior and put up half the roof trusses. This was the highlight of my trip: We started from a pile of wood and a concrete slab and in three days we were putting a roof over someone's home."

Thuyvan Luu, a sophomore majoring in biology, said the highlight of the trip was "definitely being able to stand in front of the house on the last day and see all of the walls and some of the roof up. There was such a feeling of accomplishment, teamwork, happiness and pride flowing throughout the group, knowing that we built that house together. I also loved knowing that one day, when the house is completely done after the work of some more kind hands, it will be filled with a deserving family." || Related coverage: Rocky Mount Telegram

Dominican Republic trip
Organized by B.A.C.E.S. (Bucknell Advancing Communities, Educating and Serving) five years ago, Bucknell students worked in Santo Domingo to hand out bags of food to feed hundreds of starving families, set up a medical outreach assisting in teeth extractions, distribute medications and teach the basics of hygiene and sex education. Bucknellians have helped to establish and maintain a school that serves more than 200 in one of the poorest communities in the Dominican Republic.

Daniela Calcagni, a senior majoring in Spanish and history, is a four-year veteran of the trip. "When I came to Bucknell, I knew that I definitely wanted to become involved with an international service organization," she said. "If I had to choose one value that I believe everyone should live by, it would be to give back. We are so incredibly fortunate to live the lives that we do here at Bucknell. Most of the world does not live the way we do, and it is our duty to humanity to help those who do not have the very basic necessities of life that we take for granted each day."

A four-year veteran of the trip, Calcagni has been group leader for the past three years. "The most rewarding part of this role is watching the students who have never seen third world poverty, or who have never participated in a service trip like this, transform in a week's time," said Calcagni. "It is incredible to watch the roller coaster of emotions that they experience and to watch their thought processes on culture, economics, politics, etc., develop throughout the week.

"The purpose of this trip is twofold: We serve some of the most impoverished communities of the Dominican Republic with food, medical supplies, resources and education, and we also learn about ourselves as individuals and as a part of the greater Bucknell community."

McAvoy echoes that thought. "I also enjoyed getting to know and work with a new group of Bucknellians," she said. "Our Brigade was made up of students of all different class years, majors, etc., so it's unlikely that I would have crossed paths with them otherwise. They are really accomplished, talented, compassionate and genuine people, and I'm so glad to have gotten to know them through our trip."

Daniel Eshleman, a junior majoring in computer science and engineering, spent previous breaks at home working in a warehouse. This year, he decided, "I wanted to spend my spring break helping others, and I've heard only excellent things about Habitat for Humanity."

For Eshleman, the highlight of his trip was the bonding he experienced, "not only with members of my own team, but with the team we partnered with and the workers in Rocky Mount, N.C. I made so many new friends. It was awesome to work together with many people I didn't know before toward a common goal."

Each trip included social activities for the group. Habitat volunteers spent time relaxing on the beach and bowling. They also visited an arcade and enjoyed a traditional southern hog roast. Members of the Brigade visited the plantation that provides coffee beans as a fundraiser for the Brigade, sold on campus and in local shops.

Contact: Division of Communications