Service the Focus for Many Students During Spring Break

by William Edwards ‘17 | Feb 27, 2015

Dozens of DeSales students will be heading to warm and far-off places for spring break this week, but forget about the sunny beaches and loud parties.

Beginning Saturday, more than 60 undergraduates will be taking week-long, service-oriented alternative spring break trip through the University’s Center for Service and Social Justice (CSSJ). Groups will be helping organizations including Feed the Children in Nicaragua, Habitat for Humanity in Lexington, Va. and Lafayette, La., United Saints in New Orleans, La., the American Hiking Association in Jackson, Mo., and the United Way in Washington, D.C.

The service trips have been taken for 15 years now, and are organized and run by the Director of the CSSJ Jaime Gerhart. Each group will include twelve students and a faculty adviser.

“There are several reasons it’s important to go on a spring break trip, one being to build our DeSales community; to have a team of twelve students working together for a common goal,” Gerhart said. “And then also our global community and understanding the concept of solidarity, that even if someone’s 5,000 miles away, they deserve as much compassion and commitment as our next door neighbor.”

Sydney Duffy, a freshman transfer musical theater major, will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to volunteer at a homeless shelter, a food bank and an after school program for United Way and the city’s Boys and Girls Club.

“I’m looking forward to making new friends because I’m new, the experience to see how different it is, because I’ve done service trips in the area but not far away from home,” Duffy said. “Just mainly the experience in itself, mainly the things we’ll do and how i can apply them in my life.”

Exchange student Lauren Patrick from Northern Ireland is going to New Orleans to assist in rebuilding homes affected by natural disasters. The trip will also give her an opportunity to be exposed to more of the country.

“I wanted to see more of America, so I decided this would be the best way, to go with the school,” she said. “And I haven’t done any [service] like that before, so I thought it would be a good experience.”

In addition to volunteering at food banks, building homes and helping with children, students will be undertaking various projects like constructing chicken coops, restoring trails and educating women on first aid. Reflection periods will also be built into their schedules.

“To be with a group of people and say, ‘Okay, there’s a cement block here on Monday, and then on Friday we put up walls and a roof and there’s a family that’s going to live there for the rest of their lives’--You can’t replicate that in a normal week during the school year,” Gerhart said. “So it’s a really special bond between that group of twelve.”

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