Students serve abroad

This spring break, students can engage in service projects, interact with new people, explore a new place, and have an overall fun time, all in one experience. Alternative Break offers students the chance to go around the globe doing service projects for the needy. The trips being explored for this year include Peru, New Orleans, and tentatively Tanzania, one of which will ultimately be chosen as the spring break trip.

This year’s trip will follow a successful journey to Ecuador last year.

On the Ecuador trip, students went to the Congal Biomarine Reserve where they helped clear land and redevelop a school yard. In performing acts of service with the community, students were also able to see a new place and to foster relationships.

“[I thought it] would be a great way to help people [and] the environment while seeing a part of the world I probably wouldn’t normally visit,” said Courtney Sutter, a junior linguistics and professional writing double major.

At the meeting held last week for interested students, a video from Ecuador’s trip was shown. The students were surrounded by beautiful scenery as a guide explained the cultural and historical background of many buildings in the country, including the president’s house. Later, the students were shown exploring the mangroves where people lived, riding a boat to see monkeys, walking through wetlands among baby crabs, and cutting down brush with machetes.

Carlton Reeves, current president and senior mechanical engineering major, has been involved with the Alternative Break program for the past three years. He has led trips to Louisiana, as well as the trip last year to Ecuador where he says he learned to “appreciate what [he] had and not take it for granted.”

The students who went to Ecuador were able to interact with students in a school as they helped clean up their grounds.

“They were so happy when we built the fence around their school and cleaned up the school yard,” Reeves said. He saw that “this was the greatest thing to [them].”

Alternative Break has equally involved projects planned for this year’s possible trips to Peru, New Orleans, or tentatively Tanzania.

Peru’s trip would be in collaboration with Globalware, a supply chain management organization that sets up connections in towns all over the world. Students would live in the Andes Mountains in a central village for volunteers with running water.

There would also be opportunities to explore the area, with such sites as ancient ruins believed to have been left by aliens. The trip’s $600 cost would go toward food, lodging, cultural excursions, emergency evacuation insurance, and travel insurance.

The trip to New Orleans would be in coordination with the St. Bernard’s project. Activities would include rebuilding homes and helping residents adjust as they settle back into their Louisiana homes. Students would be provided three meals a day and the trip cost is $300.

Chakana Mentore, sophomore anthropology and history double major with a minor in creative writing, said he is “very interested in being part of the Alternative Break program.” As a student of anthropology and history, he would like to travel to Peru and is “eager to interact with the people there. I really want a chance to live as they live on a daily basis.”

Sutter is also interested in the trip to Peru and has had experience with the culture before.

“I used to do all my Spanish projects in middle and high school on some aspect of Peru or the Andes,” she said. “I’m also quite interested in the Quechua and Aymara indigenous languages spoken in the Andes.” She is most excited to “help this community work toward their goals ... on what the community thinks is best.”

She explained that students who travel to Peru next spring will be able to help out an “early childhood education program ... [that] will emphasize learning basic computer skills such as word processing and sending.”

Reeves said that opportunities such as these can be experienced during a semester abroad, but sometimes this is not always an option.

Reeves feels like the Alternative Break program is appropriate “because it gives you the opportunity to get out of the Carnegie Mellon bubble and gain experience in a different culture, one that you may not know anything about.”

He believes that these “trips allow students to gain a valuable global perspective and experience that cannot be taught in the classroom. Then, once the trip is over, students are given opportunities to share their experiences, no matter how profound, with the broader CMU campus.”

Interested students can fill out an application and rank the trips in order of preference. The applications are then collected and then discussed among board members. However, “the main criteria for the trips are impact on students, travel distance, and service component,” Reeves said.

Only one trip is selected for the students of Alternative Break and Mentore “hopes that Peru will be that trip. The land is rich with culture and I look forward to interacting with the people.”

Applications can be acquired by emailing creeves@.