Alternative Spring Break program is a weeklong community service trip dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others through active service
Posted 03.20.11 by MICA Communications
In March, MICA Alternative Spring Break (ASB) participants partnered with the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) on a weeklong trip to the Washington metropolitan area to serve those in need. The Youth Service Opportunities Project, a non-profit program designed to encourage young individuals on becoming a part of the solution to societal problems and issues, gave participants the opportunity to work with Food and Friends, A Wider Circle, Martha's Table and Street Sense to serve the homeless community in Washington. Through grant funding, student volunteers also participated in the NCH Homeless Challenge, a 48-hour program in which individuals were able to truly experience what it's like to be homeless with active participation. Participation in this program included giving up basic necessities such as warm bedding and shelter. The program allowed participants to walk and wait in lines to receive food and other services and experience the overall isolation of being homeless.
What did the students gain from this experience? At the end of the program, participants provided feedback through an anonymous survey. One student learned "so much. I appreciate everything more, but I feel like I'm changing my life plans...I really want to be socially active. I also felt like I learned so much about people." Another discovered "a lot of different perspectives, inputs and experiences that will remain with me for a lifetime."
At Food and Friends, participants prepared meals that were sent to the homes of individuals suffering from life-threatening illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer. While serving at Wider Circle, participates helped examine the condition of donated furniture that would be given to low income families or individuals transitioning out of shelter living to furnish their new homes. Participants prepared sandwiches for a mobile soup kitchen sent out daily to serve the homeless in the area, and they also helped distribute Street Sense, a local publication catering to the homeless of Washington by providing job information and words of empowerment.
One of the ASB participants reported developing a better understanding of the societal issue of homelessness, expressing "it put things in my own life in perspective and gave me a new view into homelessness, a view I may have never gotten without this trip."
One of the goals of the ASB program is to encourage a bond between students and the community so they can understand the reasons behind these issues and empower themselves to become active citizens. With this goal in mind, it's safe to say, MICA's Alternative Spring Break program 2011 resulted in time well spent and lessons well learned. Congratulations to all faculty, staff and students who played a role in carrying out this project.