As part of Alternative Spring Break 2011, students, faculty and staff are serving community organizations across the United States and in Ecuador while learning about issues such as the environment, poverty, public health and education. Trips this year include Crawfordville, Florida; Taos, New Mexico; Los Angeles; eastern Tennessee; Boston; Atlanta; and Ecuador.

In Ecuador: Meeting the kids

An update from Jillian in Ecuador, a first-year student minoring in human rights and special education:

It was warm today! And surprisingly, no rain!!! First day at the market with the kids, what an experience!

While the market itself was exactly what I expected, the situation of the children and the families working in the markets was completely different than what I had envisioned before arriving. I was chosen to go with Danny to round up the first round of kids for our first session, and that was definitely eye-opening. Actually going through the narrow paths of the market, dodging many venders offering me their products, and desperately trying to stay close behind Danny was quite the shocking task.

After gathering kids from their families’ stations, we made our way to the tent and mats that we had previously set up. We did multiple enjoyable activities with the kids such as reading books (in Spanish and English), singing songs, and coloring paper that helped them learn their numbers in English. The first session in the day was for sure more manageable than the second because of the behavior of the kids.

Overall, it was an exhausting, yet wonderful day! The kids were so much more accepting and appreciative than I was expecting. The hugs from them at the end of the sessions made the entire exhausting task totally worth it.

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Long trip to Ecuador

An update from Matthew, director of Alternative Breaks and a junior majoring in public policy, economics and political science, who is headed for Ecuador:

Hello from Miami! It has been a long day of traveling after driving to Houston from Dallas at 1am, flying to Miami, only to face a five-hour layover, and preparing for the night flight to Quito.

Everyone is equally exhausted and excited about the trip. I personally cannot wait to land and be in Quito and see our living arrangements for the week. Half of our group will be in family homes and the other half will be in an international volunteer house.

We start service in the morning either teaching English or science, working in a daycare center, or doing family social work! All 14 of us are very excited for what tonight and tommorrow will have in store.

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Countdown to 5 a.m.

An update from Doug, a biology and psychology major who is heading to St. Marks National Wildlife Reserve in Crawfordville, Florida:

St. Marks refuge in Crawfordville, Florida: Whoever thought anyone would be taking an Alternative Break trip there? But after months of attempting to find places to no avail, I stumbled upon this place. They were by far the most excited of any organization I talked to, which makes me even more excited. (I’m especially ecstatic about scoring a free place to stay all week and a free BBQ banquet on our last day).

This trip did not just have issues with being planned, but also with individuals on the trip. We’ve had several leave, some come and then decide to leave, and some (the best ones) who have stuck through it the whole time … now they just have to show up at 5:30 am and ride in a van for 15 hours.

I couldn’t be more excited about the group I’m going with. I know we’re going to do great things with St. Marks refuge and we’re also going to do great things in each other’s lives. The best part about Alternative Breaks is the experience of meeting other individuals from totally different walks of life. We’re all going to come out of this trip better human beings due to what we learn from one another.

Well, enough of my soapbox and rambling. I’m off to bed to be well rested for the first driving shift of the day! Woohoo, 5 am!! … and to make things better, it’s spring forward as well. I’ll post again later (we’ll see if there is Internet where we’re staying). Later!

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Gearing up for Ecuador

KnappPic.jpg An update from Megan Knapp, adviser to the Alternative Spring Break Ecuador trip and lecturer in Applied Physiology and Wellness:

Passport, check. Suitcase out of the closet, check. Fourteen students and me excited about the adventures in Ecuador that lie ahead, CHECK!

Last summer, the coordinator of Alternative Spring Breaks, Matt Gayer, posed a question: Would I have any interest in being a faculty/staff sponsor for an international service learning Spring Break trip? An opportunity to travel with students and give back to a community in a meaningful way? Sounds awesome, sign me up!

The student coordinators have been hard at work all school year to pull together the details of this trip, along with six other service learning trips. Since January, our Ecuador team has been meeting weekly to get to know one another, discuss questions and concerns about the trip, and build our knowledge about Ecuador. Did you know that the guinea pig is considered a delicacy in Ecuador?

We will be based in Quito and working with a volunteer organization called UBELONG. Much of our volunteer efforts will involve working with local children on a variety of educational and social issues.

As a Wellness Choices 1 instructor, I see this experience as an opportunity to apply what I teach, as contributing to the common good is a part of wellness. I look forward to the opportunity to work alongside our students outside of the classroom to make an impact in the lives of others.

I, along with my fellow travelers, will try to post updates throughout the trip. In the meantime, I should get back to baking cookies. I’m hosting the pre-departure party for everyone at my house!

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