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Alternative Spring Break 2004

Henry Student Center • 570-408-5905 (T) • 570-408-7794 (F) • Email

2004 Spring Break involved much more than...
rest and relaxation for 18 students who participated in week-long alternative-spring-break trips. Ten students traveled to Santarem, Brazil to work with Amizade, a non-profit organization that encourages intercultural exploration and understanding through community-driven service-learning courses and volunteer programs.

Under the direction of local skilled masons and carpenters, the group helped in construction and renovation projects on a school. The students also tutored elementary and middle school-aged children and participated in local recreational activities such as dancing, an open-air market, and hiking.

Co-trip advisor Dr. Theresa Kintz also offered a course on Brazilian history and culture with basic instruction on the Portuguese language.

Eight students traveled to Miami, Florida...
to work with senior citizens through Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, a national, non-profit organization committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among elderly people.

Participants volunteered at the Senior Center, visited homebound seniors, and delivered meals to low-income seniors.

Student Journals from Miami, Florida & Santarem, Brazil
Steph, Sophomore | Pre-Pharmacy Major
My past experiences with the elderly had been rather dull. However the experience that I had this week was anything but dull. These elders were so lively. Although they spoke very little English and we speak very little Spanish, we communicated on a deeper level. The love for life that they have is amazing. They were always laughing and dancing around. I cannot wait to try and write to them. I can't wait until I have the chance to come back.

Holly, Junior | Sociology Major
Many people only speak Spanish, which makes it difficult to communicate. The elderly people we are working with seem to be full of energy and glad to see us. One group stayed in the center and did activities while the other group went out into the field. We went to see Mr. Crosby. He has been in a VA hospital for 10 years due to a stroke. He seemed to be pleased to have visitors. I feel glad to be able to go and visit someone that doesn't have anyone in the area. Many of the elderly spoke Spanish, but we have made it through so far.

Eric, Senior | Biology Major
The week is almost over and looking back I feel good about the work we've done. Even if our time with the elders is brief, I am reminded of the importance of taking time to listen. It's hard putting others first when I'm at a stage in my life where so much of my time is spent planning my future. This experience reminds me of the bigger picture to life. It's the reason for continuing my education to give me the tools that will allow me to make a difference.

Audrey, Sophomore | Pre-Pharmacy Major
Well the week in Miami is over and I think the whole experience was awesome. I've worked with the elderly since I was young but one thing I noticed that was different here was being exposed to the Latin crowd. They were very outgoing compared to the more reserved English-speaking elders. It was really neat to see elders this active. I think they all really appreciated our visit and were sad to see us leave. I found myself just as eager to see them in the morning as they were to see us. I definitely don’t think the project was only about how we helped them because I feel like I walked away with so much from it.

Tiffany, Senior | Biology Major
By the end of the week, we built half a community center (in Brazil) where children will have an opportunity to get tutored, learn music, or just a place to be with others and be at peace. Another group will be in Santarem in May to finish the community center. The hardest part about the whole trip is being home and knowing that these beautiful people are there working so hard and getting 35 cents an hour or 100-150 dollars a month as an average salary, and they are trapped because minimum wage is at that and they cannot do anything about it except live their lives day to day. And the most amazing thing is, they are the happiest people I have ever met in life, so content with their families and communities and love their land more than anything in the world.

Melissa, Sophomore | Mathematics Major
This is definitely an experience I will always remember. I will never look at the elderly that same way. I always thought they were lifeless people that were depressed. The elderly that I met here were so kind and lively. Even though some of them did not speak English, they were determined to get you to understand what they were trying to say. They were always saying how beautiful we were. The elders that I met have changed my life forever.

Roman, Junior | Biology Major
The elderly people were very nice and welcomed all of us to help them out with the grocery shopping, playing games and even sharing personal thoughts. It's truly amazing how much we were able to accomplish on our trip. We even had a last day party in the park where everyone decorated picture frames and took a group pictures for it. I could fill this entire notebook with what I learned on this trip. But I think the most important thing I learned from this trip is that the elderly people are lonely for the most part and they greatly appreciate our help even if it was just talking to them.

Liz, Junior | Nursing Major
Besides working in the center everyday, we were able to see a lot of sites Miami has to offer. Deep-sea fishing was a lot of fun even if only one fish was caught. And how many people can say they went swimming in the Everglades? It was interesting when our tour guide told us that alligators can jump 2/3 their length and then told me to hold a marshmallow high over my head and close my eyes. Before I knew it a bird swooped down and took the marshmallow from my hand. It was certainly memorable.

Chris, Sophomore Biology Major
Besides the time that I spent at the center, I truly enjoyed the company of eleven fascinating individuals. I believe that they taught me a lot over the week and I am truly thankful. I'll admit that living with two strangers was difficult at times but it also taught me what I did to change socially being that I am an only child. Not only will I miss the time I spent with the elders but also I will miss the time that I spent with the group.
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