By Bridget Balch
Every year about fourteen students and one faculty member leave the weekend of spring break to embark on a journey of service for spring break.
They take a van down south to work with Habitat for Humanity for the week. In previous years they have gone to South Carolina, Alabama and Florida, and this year they will be heading to Atlanta, Georgia.
For the rest of the week they participate in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, which involves all sorts of construction and manual labor. They help build houses by putting up walls, putting in insulation, painting and whatever other work is required.
“My favorite part is at the end of everyday when you get to see what you’ve done,” senior Brad Efford said.
Efford, one of the officers of COAR, the organization that runs Alternative Spring Break, is one of the team leaders. He has also attended the trips for the past two years and is going again this year.
“It feels great to be completely exhausted after having accomplished so much,” he said.
In addition to construction work, the team members help by serving the community in other ways such as serving at soup kitchens, helping with flood relief and babysitting children.
Habitat for Humanity reaches out to the poor and less fortunate by providing them with one of the most basic human needs, a home. The family for whom each house is being built works along side with the volunteers, which allows the team members to see firsthand the difference they are making in the lives of these people.
“They’re really grateful,” Efford said. “One lady even cried.”
The interaction with the people they are serving enhances the experience of the student volunteers, as they are able to connect with their work on a more personal level.
Even after they return to school, the students keep in contact with the people that they served through e-mail and are continually updated on the progress they helped bring about.
These students not only forgo their spring breaks to help the less fortunate, but they also pay to do so. Each student must pay a fee to Habitat for Humanity, which covers room and board, etc.
In addition, the vans that are used to transport the students cost $1,000 each way, and that doesn’t include local transportation. Since COAR is an organization that is not directly associated with UMW, they receive no money from the university.
This leaves the students to raise the money themselves. This is done mostly through grassroots efforts. COAR sponsored the Poker Tournament last week and proceeds are going to help pay for this year’s trip.
Also, this year a “spare change” fundraiser was conducted at Bingo where people could get extra Bingo cards if they donated some change. The bulk of the fundraising, however, is done by the students individually by having bake sales and by sending out support letters to their family and friends which explain what they are doing and request financial support.