The Alternative Service Breaks program of the Boston University Community Service Center has added a new trip to St. Louis, Missouri this year, in an attempt to increase the opportunity to learn from new communities.
The two trip coordinators said eight to 12 students will join them in traveling to St. Louis over spring break in March to participate in community service projects.
Brianna Graff, ASB’s Social Justice and Education Chair and a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said most of ASB’s trips have one community partner or type of service that they perform, but that the St. Louis program will be working with two community partners.
“Each trip has a specific social justice related ‘focus area’ [such as] homelessness and housing, abilities, environment and animals, to name a few,” Graff wrote in an email. “Participants in the St. Louis trip get the unique opportunity to learn about several [areas], namely homelessness and housing and abilities.”
Graff added that the community partners with which students will be volunteering are Almost Home, a charity dedicated to breaking the poverty cycle among young mothers, and LifeBridge Partnership, an organization that gives people with disabilities the opportunity to learn skills and participate in their communities.
Graff said participants who go on this trip will be given an opportunity to learn and reflect on how small-scale service within a community can initiate large-scale change.
“Hopefully by entering the St. Louis community, volunteers will gain new perspectives and be able to carry these with them back to BU and into their daily lives,” Graff wrote.
Alexander Navarro, one of the St. Louis trip coordinators, said trip coordinators not only arrange food and lodging, but also play a role in educating the students who participate.
“Throughout the whole academic year up until the break, we do things such as coordinate an educational module,” the CAS junior said, “because education is a very integral part of ASB.”
Lucy Levin, the other trip coordinator, said participants are not necessarily recruited but rather volunteer to do whatever the organization needs. Students on the St. Louis trip will likely help run activities for LifeBridge Partnership programs. The community service done at Almost Home will involve more physical labor intended to improve facilities.
“When we go to the community partner [Almost Home], [we’re] probably going to be doing things along the lines of painting rooms that need to be painted or outdoor work to keep the ground presentable and clean,” the College of Communication sophomore said.
Levin said ASB added the St. Louis trip to broaden its horizons and create lasting relationships with communities across the country.
“We want to create connections that’ll last for years after, for future ASB trips, so that we can continue [our] relationship with the partners,” Levin said, “and so they let us … expand that and reach a different part of the U.S.”
Several ASB alumni said their experiences with past ASB trips were productive and enjoyable.
Kerry Sadlier, a junior in the College of Communication, went to Hobe Sound in Florida last spring break with ASB to volunteer with The Nature Conservancy at Blowing Rocks Preserve.
Sadlier said she thinks ASB is a great opportunity for students to expand their horizons during spring break.
“ASB is a great way to get out of the BU bubble and spend your spring break in a productive way,” Sadlier said. “You learn a lot about communities around the entire country besides Massachusetts and also meet new people.”
Lee-Or Bentovim, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences who was also a participant of the Hobe Sound trip, said he thinks the trip helped him connect with different members of the BU community.
“There was a day where we were doing especially hard work removing invasive trees,” Bentovim wrote in a Facebook message. “The way we supported each other in physically challenging conditions was a great reminder of the power of positivity.”
COM junior Sydney Collier, who also went to Hobe Sound last spring, said her group planted mangroves to improve the local ecosystem by removing invasive species, changing the way she thinks about the environment.
“I realized that our current society is so used to globalization and trade that very little of what we eat and grow is actually native to the land,” Collier wrote in a Facebook message. “Even today, I think a lot about what I can do to stop the spread of invasive species and eat local foods!”