Ninety SVSU students participated in an Alternative Breaks trip during the week of Dec. 16-23. Each trip focused on a social issue that participants learned about and worked to solve.
A total of eight teams of students traveled to seven states and worked with various non-profit organizations.
Three of the teams volunteered to create homes for individuals in need.
Students working with Rebuilding Macon Inc., located in Macon, Georgia, helped restore the homes of low-income families. Similarly, students working with the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, based in Asheville, North Carolina, worked to construct safe and affordable housing for families in need of stability and security.
English sophomore Lindsey Mead led a team of students who volunteered with La Casa Inc., located in Goshen, Indiana, to repurpose and rebuild structures in the community.
“We repurposed three different structures owned by La Casa,” Mead said. “One of the buildings was called The Shoots, which is a complex specifically for elderly and mentally disabled residents. We painted hallways there and got the chance to converse with some of the residents that live in the apartments.”
Other trips focused on indirect service and education.
A group of students traveled to the Steinbruck Center, an organization located in Washington D.C., where they learned about poverty and inequality in the community.
One team worked with the Life of Freedom Center, located in Miami, where they learned about human trafficking and met with survivors.
Elementary education senior Erin Weber led a team that worked with the Clearfork Community Institute, located in Eagan, Tennessee, to learn about the residents of the rural coal mining town.
“We were able to meet many community members and hear their stories,” Weber said. “We learned so much about the community we were serving as well as the coal mining industry and its aftermath.”
A group of students also worked with Community Missions Inc., located in Niagara Falls, New York, which provides crisis aid, housing services, recovery services and youth services to individuals.
Another group traveled to Murphy, North Carolina, where they worked with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition Inc., which aims to maintain good water quality in creeks, lakes and rivers that flow into the Hiwassee River through education and threat management.
Each trip provided unique learning opportunities for the volunteers.
“I learned how to work better with a team and how to use power tools,” Mead said. “But mainly, I learned how other communities in our nation, like Goshen, handle issues in their towns. We learned so much from La Casa, and I hope to bring it back to Saginaw and make a difference with affordable housing here.”
Weber also shared her learning experiences.
“The most shocking thing I learned was that no matter how bad a situation may be, a community can be strong in the face of challenge,” Weber said. “With the mining companies destroying the community’s beauty, land and water, CCI is determined to improve the lives for the community members.”