Alternative Spring Break trips offer hands-on service, learning

By M. Lameiras and Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Jan. 15, 2015

Story image

During the homeless immersion Spring Break trip, students walk everywhere they go, work with charitable organizations throughout Atlanta, and sleep either outdoors or in homeless shelters. Emory Photo/Video

Emory and Oxford College students have the opportunity to make spring break a transformational experience by participating in Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips that focus on service and learning. The trips take place March 7-15.

During fall and spring breaks and between semesters, Volunteer Emory and Leadership Oxford traditionally organize a series of local and regional service trips designed to nurture meaningful student development through projects that offer community engagement, exposure to social justice issues and cultural events, and a unique hands-on education.

The mission of each trip is to allow students to collaborate with non-profits and community change agents through service projects and cultural experiences.

Students pay a modest fee to participate; past trips have seen Emory volunteers involved with issues such as poverty and disaster relief, community and culture building, early education and environmental health, international refugee communities, and healthy food and sustainability concerns.

To celebrate Oxford’s 10th anniversary of serving the community and engaging students through alternative breaks, Volunteer Oxford will offer two ASB trips for a total of 37 students. 

Students who travel to Heifer International Ranch in Arkansas will participate in an immersive, interactive program that promotes sustainable solutions to global hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. Other students will go to New Orleans to continue in the rebuilding and redeveloping efforts in the Gulf Region affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The deadline to apply for Volunteer Oxford ASB is 10 p.m. on Jan. 19.

Volunteer Emory typically sponsors five to six Alternative Spring Break trips. In addition, this year Volunteer Emory will offer three alternative weekend trips during the course of spring semester. 

Applications for a February weekend trip and Spring Break trips are now open. Applications for the February trip close Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. and applications for all ASB trips close Jan. 31 at 5 p.m.

Following is a listing of Volunteer Emory’s upcoming ASB trips:

“Environmental Justice in the Appalachians” in Harlan, Kentucky: This trip into communities impacted by coal mining will partner with Appalachia Science in the Public Interest to focus on projects addressing environmental harm, sustainable development and social injustices in the community. By improving the environment of this Appalachian town, this trip seeks to build upon the intersection between social injustice and environmental injustice to promote positive change on both fronts.

Health literacy and disparities trip to Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina: This trip explores the various forms of literacy that play a role in exacerbating health disparities. In Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, students will volunteer with health care providers, free clinics, orphanages and homeless shelters to better understand health disparities. Part of the break will be dedicated to volunteering in Charleston, allowing participants a chance to not only enjoy giving to the community but also relax at the beach. 

Homeless immersion trip in Atlanta: In this unique “staycation” that Volunteer Emory launched three years ago, participants walk the streets of Atlanta with little more than the clothes on their back, do service work at organizations aimed at working with those experiencing homelessness, and sleep either outside or at these shelters. This year students will work with organizations such as Metro Atlanta Task Force, Kashi Street Meals, and Madhousers in order to gain a more interpersonal understanding of homelessness and to reduce the distance between “us” and “them.” 

“Seeds of Sustainability: Local agriculture” in Columbia: Students will work alongside South Carolina farmers to promote and provide sustainable agriculture for the area. Participants will get a look at how the community works with its local farms, orchards and community gardens to provide a healthy and conscientious alternative to regular agricultural methods.

“Serving Savannah” in Savannah: This trip will give participants the opportunity to explore social justice issues such as poverty and economic injustice while also gaining an understanding between the dichotomy of a beautiful, tourist-oriented city and its underlying poverty. Focusing on the underserved will be key to this alternative spring break trip as participants delve into issues such as health care inequality, youth advocacy and homelessness. ​

Youth advocacy in Orlando: Participants will aim to make a difference in the lives of numerous children who are in difficult and disadvantaged situations. Students will work with Give Kids the World, Orlando Day Nursery, New Hope for Kids and other local nonprofit organizations that strive to make a positive difference in every child's life even in the face of life-threatening illnesses and family hardships.