Huskies volunteered with Sacred Heart Charities the Rio Grande Valley. The trip’s mission was to help refugee families get some rest as they continue their journey to their families. HABers worked one on one with undocumented families from Central America who were detained as they illegally crossed the Mexican border, whether by land or water, less than five days prior to our students’ arrival. Although the organization has recently encountered obstacles related to immigration policy, they have managed to overcome and have their doors open to all the families still crossing over the Rio Grande. .
Clarkston is known as the most diverse city in America, is a small town that is playing a key role in refugee resettlement today. Many refugees are placed in Clarkston to rebuild their lives after fleeing war torn countries where they were unsafe. Clarkston provides a safe community to achieve this. Most businesses are refugee owned and the schools are full of diverse students. The community members support each other and exemplify the community ideals that we seek to achieve in America today. Students worked with Something New to assist in schools during the day and help in after-school programs. Students had the opportunity to observe how socioeconomic status, as well as refugee status, affected children's educations and the schools that they were in.
Students served alongside communities of people experiencing homelessness. During their time, students learned about the homeless populations, as well as the 10 year plan Hennepin County has in place to eliminate homelessness. NIU students volunteered at various organizations such as People Serving People, Simpson Housing Services and Community Emergency Services. Following their service, students were also able to take part in Simpson Housing Services annual Homeless Memorial March from downtown Minneapolis to Simpson Housing Services. Students gained much insight on the impact of homelessness and how Hennepin County is going to eliminate homelessness and assist in different ways in the future.
We hosted our first international alternative break trip for undergraduate students. For the inaugural trip, Huskie Alternative Breaks collaborated with Panorama Service Expeditions for a week-long period to work on short and long-term community development goals. Huskies helped to remodel a school and o engaged neighborhood children via after-school educational activities. In the mornings the students worked hard rusting and painting the metal poles that kept the classroom ceilings in place and also broke down the unsafe molded wood lounge area to replace it with a safer cement stand.
The HABers were able to enjoy the opportunity to teach subjects such as English and math, doing arts and crafts, and playing soccer and volleyball. Not only did the Huskies grow from this experience but the kids all loved the activities and had a lot of fun. The NIU students were able to learn about the strong community initiatives that the Managua community is taking to better their economic and environmental status. They were also able to see the rich culture that Nicaragua values. Through interactions with the community, students were truly able to understand that even though Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Central America, it is also a country of many riches.
During this 2016 Spring Break Huskie Alternative Break participants visited The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, DC to serve alongside the staff who work with underprivileged youth. The Boys and Girls Club serves 4 million youth participants every day, with a mission to “enable all young people, especially those who need us more, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens”. The Boys and Girls Club allows a safe place for young people to grow, take part in life-enhancing programs, and provides hope and opportunities for their members. Huskies volunteered at 2 separate clubs to learn about the BGCA, and to interact and serve the youth who attended. The trip enabled HABers to challenge our beliefs around under-privileged and at-risk youth. Fifty-four percent of BGCA alumni say that the club saved their life.
Huskies also visited many monuments and museums in the D.C. area during their free time. Interactions with fellow Break Away students from University of Connecticut and Dartmouth College allowed HABers to learn about the trips those students were on and who they were serving.
Ten passionate women traveled to McAllen, TX and volunteered at Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande to serve issues surrounding immigration in the United States. HAB students worked one on one with undocumented families from Central America who were detained as they illegally crossed the Mexican border, whether by land or water, less than five days prior to our students’ arrival. Catholic Charities volunteers welcomed the group of families with new clothing, warm showers, food and a place to stay and our students helped to provide these services. Those who came through the organization were given the opportunity to live in the United States with a documented family while waiting for their hearing with immigration.
In March, ten NIU students traveled to Atlanta, Georgia during to work with and empower adolescent girls during their spring break. Huskie Alternative Breaks partnered with Girl Talk an organization in the area that encourages mentorship and training of young women. Girl Talk offers a peer to peer mentoring program in which high school girls mentor middle school girls. HAB worked with several Girl Talk chapters as well as observed and provided feedback about their mentoring and training opportunities.
The Counseling, Adult and Higher Education department partnered with Huskie Alternative Breaks to create a unique experience for graduate students interested in applying their graduate-level training to a service-learning opportunity. The group of 8 graduate students and 1 faculty member worked with Catalyst Resources International to build a house, chicken coop and stove in order to help families in need sustain themselves. The Huskie Alternative Breakers also had the opportunity to speak with local helping professionals about their careers in Guatemala, and they were able to interact with children at a newly opened orphanage. By fostering relationships with local Guatemalan families, witnessing the economic disparity within the country and learning about Guatemalan culture, the volunteers were able to gain a multicultural experience that fostered their desires to be agents of social change.
Not only did volunteers participate in a meaningful service opportunity, but they also were able to explore Guatemala. Participants navigated the ancient city of Antigua, hiked the Mayan ruins and indulged in local cuisine. Each volunteer shared that serving in Guatemala was a life-changing experience that opened their eyes to different ways of living. By the end of the trip, all group members adopted the “Guat-ever” mentality through recognizing the importance of human connection over material items.
Despite its critical role in the advancement of our country’s Civil Rights Movement, Selma is still plagued with segregation and racism. Students volunteered with The Freedom Foundation, an organization committed to ministering in Selma’s progression. Huskies visited four schools and engaged with some of Selma’s youth. The Random Acts of Kindness Theatre Company (RATCo) is a program offered by the Freedom Foundation. RATCo allows Selma's youth to express themselves through dance, poetry and song. It is often a safe haven or an escape for children coming from broken homes and families. Students interacted with RATCo members, watched some of their choreographed routines and were taught some moves themselves.
Students also explored some of Selma’s most historic landmarks like the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Brown Chapel and learned about the not-as-well-known history of the Civil Rights Movement through visits at the Rosa Parks Museum, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Interpretive Center. The experience was eye-opening and forced students to consider personal biases and contradictions. Students were reminded that issues like discrimination, poverty, and segregation still exist in our nation today and not just in Selma. Each volunteer said they returned to DeKalb a new and improved person!
Students volunteered with the Northwest Florida Aquatics Preserves (FAP) and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida, Inc. (RMH). Their mission was to help spread a little joy to the families of the charity house and to contribute to bettering the ecological environment. At FAP, students planted over 1,036 potted spartina paytens, camphor and primrose plant species. They also bagged approximately 8,000 pounds of oyster shells to put back into the ocean to create more reefs for the oceans. Students learned about what goes into keeping a healthy shoreline. At the RMH, students performed basic chores such as cleaning patio furniture, cleaning the kids' toys, made lunch for the families and hosted a bingo night. Working with both the FAP and the RMH allowed NIU students to make a meaningful difference in two very different ways.
Students volunteered as camp counselors to campers at Camp Summit - A week long “sleep away” camp for children and adults with disabilities of all variety. Campers are offered a wide variety of traditional camp activities in their barrier-free environment all of which are adapted for the campers' abilities and not limited to their disabilities. Huskies worked one-on-one with children and adults to achieve the camper’s personal goals. Camp Counselor and assisted the campers with a wide assortment of accomplishments including activities of daily living, horseback riding and stepping outside away from the television to experience the natural sounds most might take for granted.