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Alternative Spring Break Seeks Volunteers

Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013

For HWS students interested in taking an "alternative" approach to their spring break in March 2014, there are several regional and out-of-state options covering a range of critical issues of today, including sustainability, education and migrant labor.

Facilitated by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL), the Colleges' 2014 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) programs are: volunteering at the Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton, N.C.; assisting with flood relief in Oneida, N.Y.; sustainable farming in Ithaca, N.Y.; volunteering with the Rural & Migrant Ministry in Lyons, N.Y.; and conducting service work at Pocahontas State Park in Virginia. The application deadline for ASB is Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2014.

"Alternative Spring Break gives students hands-on experience and direct connections to important issues," says CCESL Assistant Director Jeremy Wattles. "This year includes service around issues of food justice and sustainable farming, migrant workers in the region, disaster recovery and relief, poverty and education."

Wattles says the HWS ABS trips provide an environment through which students can make connections to people within the areas they are serving, as well as with each other. The service experiences, he says, enable students to learn more about themselves and the communities where they are stationed.

Of the 2014 ASB trips, Wattles says the newest program will be held in Oneida, which is located about an hour and a half east of Geneva. There, the community is dealing with the aftermath of major flood that took place this past June. Students will spend the week volunteering with a long-term recovery team, which is working to bring together faith communities, government agencies, non-profits, businesses and volunteers to help with the unmet relief and recovery efforts.

"A state of emergency was declared following the floods," Wattles says. "The water damage in the area is extensive, with many people losing their possessions. The damage from the flood remains a big problem in Oneida."

As the ASB facilitator for the past several years, Wattles says each service opportunity has its own unique circumstances and ability to impact lives.

In addition to the flood relief program, the details of the other 2014 ASB trips are as follows:

Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton: Students will volunteer at a rural elementary school in a variety of capacities, including tutoring, assisting with reading and math, and helping with general duties in the classroom. Students will also prepare crafts and activities for children in an afterschool program run by a local church, which will serve as the host site for the volunteers.

Three Swallows Farm: Located in Ithaca, the farm will serve as the site of an agricultural service work experience for volunteers. During the summer, Three Swallows Farm facilitates a youth education program that focuses on farming and food justice. The farm raises vegetables for a Community Sustained Agriculture program with the rest donated to local lunch programs. In March, student volunteers will have a range of responsibilities, including planting seeds, mulching, preserving food, working with composting, and cleaning facilities.

Rural & Migrant Ministry: For students interested in immigration and food production issues, the ASB program in Lyons will give students the chance to see how the ministry is advocating for social change on behalf of migrant farm workers in New York. Student volunteers will engage with workers from South and Central American countries, examining the power and privilege dynamics among large agribusinesses and rural workers.  

Pocahontas State Park: Just outside of Richmond, Va., students will work on various conservation related projects in the state park. During past trips, students have cleared land for nature trails, installed drainage systems, built bridges and removed fishing piers. Students stay in a lodge and prepare co-op style dinners, with nightly reflections held after meals.

Wattles notes that the ASB programming is again offering volunteer experiences that are right in Upstate New York this year.

"Regionally, we can make some of these issues more visible, while students participate in an experience that is meaningful and can lead to transformative things," he says.

After ASB concludes each year, CCESL offers evaluations to students as part of the overall reflection on their volunteer work. Students say that ASB programs have been very important experiences for them.

Ryan Mullaney '16, who attended last year's ASB trip to the South Bronx of New York City, says his experience was a particularly powerful one. The South Bronx trip originates as part of the course, "Two Cities: New York and Toronto," which is taught by Professor of Sociology Jim Spates.

The course traditionally includes trips to each city, presenting students with firsthand perspectives on life in those urban centers and educating them on the disparities that exist there, particularly in the United States

"I found Alternative Spring Break to be a really important part of my time as a first-year student," Mullaney says. "It gives you a chance to walk the walk of being an engaged citizen. It allows you to synthesize what you learn in class with experience that has an actual impact on the lives of other individuals. I know the people and places I became acquainted with in the South Bronx last year will stay with me for a long time."

For complete details about the 2014 ASB experiences or for more information about CCESL programming, visit: http://www.hws.edu/academics/service/alternative_breaks.aspx

 


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