Ninety students and 12 full-time staff members from Carleton University recently returned from Alternative Spring Break (ASB) armed with experiences and perspectives that will last a lifetime. In 2015, interest in the program exploded with a rise in participation of nearly 50 per cent. With more participants, the ASB program expanded to six trips from four in 2014.

“The ASB program is so powerful because it enables students to learn about topics such as poverty and access to education first-hand from communities experiencing these challenges,” said Sarah Sabourin, student development and community outreach co-ordinator.

“With the focus as much on learning from the community as it is on serving, the students often return as stronger global citizens with a variety of new perspectives and experiences to apply to their own community.”

Students participated in programs in Nicaragua, where they built classrooms and improved water quality. In Guatemala, they worked on recycling programs. In Honduras, they built a vocational training centre. Students also volunteered in New Orleans contributing to rebuilding efforts post-Katrina and in Banff working in conservation areas.

“This is my second year with ASB and my first as a team lead,’’ said Deanna Walker, ASB team leader in Honduras and fourth-year student in the Department of Psychology. “Last year, I went to Guatemala and I had an absolutely amazing time. It sounds corny, but to be honest it changed my life.”

“It gave me a new perspective on things. This year, my goal as a team lead was to expand my horizons and increase my comfort level, while also being there to support the 12 other people on my team. I wanted them to have the same kind of experience I had my first year.”

Throughout the program, students were encouraged to engage in personal reflection and make connections to their studies in order to enrich their learning experience, grow civic responsibility and strengthen communities. These are values they carried back to Ottawa and will carry forward after graduation.

From New Orleans to Nicaragua:“After I took part in my first ASB trip, I knew that I wanted to keep doing that kind of work once I left university, “ said Taylor Monk, ASB team leader in Nicaragua and fourth-year student studying psychology and human rights. “Though I am not 100 per cent sure what I want to do as a career, I know it will involve human rights and social issues. I may work with non-governmental organizations that are trying to address these issues.”

Beyond practical skills and a focus on how they wish to change the world, participants returned with a sense of fulfillment, knowing they helped improve the lives of people in need in a concrete way.

“On the very last night, when we were saying goodbye and exchanging thanks with the family who was preparing all our meals, they were in tears,” said Lauren Kteily, ASB team leader in Nicaragua and third-year student in the Department of Political Science.

“It was heartwarming to see how much they appreciated that we were there. It felt like we had given them so much, but they couldn’t understand that they had given us so much more.”

ASB is a year-long program at Carleton that culminates with a week of social engagement and service learning with a partner organization during reading week in February.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 in
Share: Twitter, Facebook