Typical college spring breaks include lying on the beach, relaxing, sightseeing and other fun activities to help provide some relief from the stresses of school. Since 2000, approximately 170 Upper Iowa University students have broken from the mold and enjoyed an “alternative” spring break, one which includes community service, cultural learning and even some manual labor.
Since the program’s founding, UIU’s ASB student volunteers have traveled to both international and domestic locations, such as Tlaquepaque, Mexico; Denver, Colorado; Richmond, Kentucky; New Orleans, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico. As the program continues, UIU students will be able to leave a positive impact wherever they travel next. The University’s 2017 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) destination was Belize. The volunteer trip was split between Belize City on the mainland and Caye Caulker, an island off the coast of Belize.
“Alternative Spring Break provides our students an opportunity to gain a wider perspective of the world while immersed in a week of public service,” said Daryl Grove, UIU assistant dean of student life and ASB chaperone. “Students leave with new relationships and the memories of being part of something better. It is a
co-curricular learning activity, both culturally and socially, that compliments the formal education UIU provides. The program intends to promote critical thinking, continued community involvement and awareness of social injustices.”
Grove explained that by traveling to Belize, the student volunteers were able to work hands on with poverty, healthcare, education, and more cost effective ways to build structures in a developing country.
This year’s UIU volunteers helped build a garden shelter, painted, and installed cabinets and whiteboards at a school. They also helped high school students set up booths and practice their sales pitches for a fundraising competition to help raise money for their education. In addition, the students partnered with Hand in Hand Ministries to help clean up a construction site by picking up trash and moving logs for scaffolding.
“My favorite part of the trip was visiting the children at the preschool, which is a school dedicated to helping children living in poverty or those who have tested positive for HIV or AIDS,” said Kelsey Sanders, a senior majoring in athletic training, from Sumner, Iowa. “The kids were so fun to play with and were full of life despite their hardships, which was especially inspiring.”
Tonya Saddoris, graduate assistant for student activities, noted she believes all of the ASB participants now have a greater appreciation for life in America and were very humbled by the experience.
For their efforts, the group was provided some time to enjoy a more traditional spring break. They visited the Mayan ruins, cave tubed, and snorkeled with string rays, sharks and other sea life on the Belize Barrier Reef. A much-deserved reward for once again fulfilling the program’s goals to increase cultural awareness, create a life-long service ethic and bring academic learning to life.