Alternative Winter Break in Austin

During December 2013, students participating in Alternative Break traveled to Austin, Texas, to work with Blackland Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that supports residents who earn less than 60 percent of the media income in Austin.

Forming friendships in service

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Alternative Winter Break 2013 at Blackland Community Development Corporation in Austin

An update from Chris:

Right now, it’s 2:02 a.m. Monday. In a few hours we head back to Dallas to spend the rest of our winter breaks celebrating the holidays with our families. But, when I initially signed up for an Alternative Breaks trip, I didn’t realize that I would leave with yet another family.

Cheesy, I know, but during this AB trip to Austin, I gained 10 siblings, all from diverse backgrounds and majors. I became their surrogate little brother, and both fortunately and unfortunately I was constantly reminded of it. But as I sit here with tears dripping down my cheeks, I sure am going to miss this place.

Upon arrival, our AB group noticed the absence of an AB’er named “Joel” who was listed on the welcome poster. We double-checked the roster of our onsite members and found out Joel lived in the basement of our imagination. Throughout the trip we witnessed the actions of Joel through his supernatural acts. With every gust of wind, we could hear the echo of Joel. With every mysterious slamming of a door inside our residence, we wondered, “Was that Joel?” While we were watching The Notebook on the third day as a bonding activity, the TV went blank, fuzzy, and loud. We concluded, it must’ve been Joel acting out. But in the end, we realized we had to continue our service in the spirit of Joel.

Every day, I woke up to the smell of a hearty breakfast cooked by none other than Calla, Gabriella and/or Paul (it takes a collaborative effort to cook for an army of 11). Pancakes, sausage, eggs, and cereal graced every inch of our table as we sustainably created and improvised meals. We were on the worksite by 9:30 every morning and left around 4 every afternoon. The nonprofit organization we served, Blackland Community Development Corporation (BCDC), focuses on the enhancement of a community for low-income families.

What is interesting about this initiative is that the BCDC Board of Directors live in the community as well. We get to go home, but the directors live in the community they serve in. Their personal lives and their philanthropy are in direct correspondence with their actions. We as SMU students received an exclusive tour from the director, Chris. We were able to meet several of the residents and immediately got to see that they could use our assistance. Even among activists you don’t find that connection; this group is serving for the right reasons. As Chris gave us our tour he was waving to the people driving down the street; it was great to see that the bond he had with the residents wasn’t superficial.

Overall, I had such an awesome time with Alternate Breaks. Through this invaluable volunteer opportunity I’ve learned not only the value of service but also what it means to have compassion for others who are less fortunate. On a personal level, I’ve also had the privilege of being around some of the most lovable people I’ve met in my life who I can proudly call my family at SMU.

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Alternative Breakers at work

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