Service trips provide new outlook on life
When making plans for Spring Break, students may be quick to book a trip to Cancun or schedule shifts at their part-time jobs back home. But instead, students can choose to help others on service trips to Guatemala and Nicaragua.
The university has offered the option of alternative spring break trips to students for 10 years, according to David T. Ives, executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute.
“The vision was to have students get out of here and understand what poverty is like in other parts of the world,” Ives said. “So many people have not experienced poverty and don’t know what the majority of people in the world live like.”
Although Ives’ motivation was to inform students about poverty, he said he also aims to provide sustainability with these service trips.
“Whatever projects that we do are asked for by the community,” Ives said. “We try to [go to the same villages each year] – that’s part of the philosophy of sustainability.”
Ives said there is a heavy student involvement when choosing who will be going on upcoming alternative spring break trips.
“We have representatives from all of our trips [at the Involvement Fair], then we have an information session probably toward the end of September, and then the application process,” Ives said. “The student leaders do a lot of the work – they read all the applications and decide which ones they want to come in for interviews.”
As one of the student leaders for the Guatemala trip, graduate student Dana Fried said she is looking forward to witnessing other students’ life-changing experiences.
“By participating in processing sessions throughout the trip, we are able to see how meaningful it is for each delegate, and being a part of such an impactful experience is extremely exciting,” Fried said.
Senior Lindsey Mazzone, the second student leader for the Guatemala trip, said she cannot wait to share her experience with the new delegation.
“These are special individuals who have the same passion to see and help the world,” Mazzone said. “I cannot wait to watch them experience Guatemala for all that it is. The first time they hug their host families or see the poverty-stricken country, I will watch as their life is truly changed for the better.”
While participating in service trips to Nicaragua or Guatemala, students are paired up and matched with host families. Ives said students often become very bonded with their host families and keep in touch after they leave.
Though Fried is looking forward to travelling with a new group of students, she said she is more excited to see her Guatemalan host family from a past service trip.
“These people are so important in my life and although we cannot always communicate with words due to a language barrier, the bond we have established is indescribable,” Fried said. “It is almost as if I am returning home.”
Ives said staying with host families in impoverished villages makes alternative spring break trips unique compared to study abroad programs.
“In Guatemala, there’s not a lot to do [in the town that we stay in] at night,” Ives said. “They spend time with the other families teaching Mam [the Mayan indigenous language] to our students…it’s tremendous.”
Mazzone said, without a doubt, she would recommend alternative spring break trips to students.
“Living in America, going to Quinnipiac University, we take so much for granted,” Mazzone said. “The people of Guatemala and Nicaragua have to work so hard for all that they have, but they never stop smiling. These people and my experiences abroad have changed my life.”