Nearly five dozen Western Carolina University students and 10 faculty and staff members participated in alternative Spring Break programs and traveled to Charleston, S.C., Guatemala or Jamaica to spend the week off serving those in need.
Students participating in the Alternative Break Program to Charleston, S.C., sponsored by WCU’s Center for Service Learning and Last Minute Productions, assisted the Charleston Miracle League, which helps children and adults who have mental and physical challenges through a baseball league. They also helped with tasks for a donation center and food bank of the East Cooper Community Outreach, load 300 bags of oyster shells and help build a reef through the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement organization, and sort donated food at the Low Country Food Bank.
Meanwhile, another group of students studying recreational therapy, nutrition, athletic training and parks and recreation management traveled to Guatemala. The group’s service projects included working with a kindergarten that serves a range of children, including children who have disabilities, and in a clinic for malnourished children.
The third – and largest – group of student Spring Break volunteers traveled to Jamaica. The group of 35 included students from nine undergraduate majors as well as the master in school administration and doctor of education programs. They assisted with activities in schools, medical clinics, nongovernmental organizations and orphanages. Graduate students led evening discussions reflecting on issues of globalization faced by developing countries and Jamaica.
Participants gathered donations of needed items such as sheets and shoes. They also sought donations of dolls, basic supplies such as boxes of chalk, and specially selected books, including “God’s Dream” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and “Wangari’s Trees of Peace” by Jeannette Winter, as well as books about children with disabilities.
Meridia Sanders, a junior from High Point majoring in criminal justice and psychology, said she signed up to participate as a way to connect with other students, serve the Charleston community and, as time permits, enjoy some time on the beach.
“I love helping people directly and indirectly,” said Sanders. “As a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, an orientation counselor and a resident assistant, my number one goal is to help and provide assistance to others.”
For Blair Runken, a senior from Franklin majoring in nutrition with an emphasis on community health, the Guatemala trip sounded like a perfect fit for her interests.
“Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and I love kids,” said Runken. “Also, my major will hopefully be a great help with working with children who are malnourished as well.”