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Six Alternative Break teams volunteer over Spring Break

One of the AB teams worked on urban and environmental restoration over spring break. Vanguard Photo | Kaleigh Kuhns

Over Spring Break, six teams left SVSU to volunteer for various service projects through the Alternative Breaks program, which allows students to travel to a site in the U.S. and assist an organization.

One of the service project groups went to Elk Park, North Carolina, where they worked with Habitat for Humanity and helped build a house.

“We worked on a house designed for two retired marine veterans with disabilities,” said Ashley Reece, a biology junior and one of the site leaders for the trip. “The house included a covered carport, making it the largest house built by Avery County’s Habitat for Humanity under one continuous roof. The house was 100 percent ADA compliant with zero-step entry, making it a very special Habitat project.”

Reece enjoyed meeting members of the community and learning more about the area.

“My favorite part of the trip was going to Ridgewood Barbecue,” Reece said. “In the waiting room, we spoke to many locals and got to know the area we were serving a little better. It was a great night that was instantly filled with joy because all of the people we met were so kind and generous.”

Another trip went to New York City to serve with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), where they focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and LGBTQ+ education.

“I learned specifically how HIV is transmitted as well as treatment options, testing services available for at-risk individuals, correct pronouns and labels for transgender people and how to administer NARCAN to someone who has overdosed on drugs,” said Justin Weller, a political science sophomore.

Weller enjoyed interacting with the people at GMHC and gaining new perspectives.

“My favorite part of the trip was connecting one-on-one with the clients of GMHC,” Weller said. “Hearing their stories made me develop a bond with them, and I developed a more humble and empathetic disposition because of this experience.”

Breanna Summers, a nursing senior, coled a team that went to Memphis, Tennessee, where they volunteered at Le Bonheur
Children’s Hospital.

“We spent a lot of our time as unit buddies, where we would go into patients’ rooms to play, do crafts, sing, talk and more,” Summers said. “Our time with the patients provided parents and caregivers with the opportunity to step out, whether it be to get breakfast, run home for a bit or even just to walk around and get some air.”

The groups helped through other means as well.

“We would also help by rocking, soothing and cuddling babies and infants who needed some love,” Summers said.

This was a rewarding experience for Summers in many ways. Not only did it help to reassure her that nursing was her calling, but the meaningful interactions she had were also impactful.

“My favorite part of the trip was realizing what an impact we had made on not only the patients, but the parents and staff,” Summers said. “The smiles on children’s faces when we would enter the room and the gratitude of the caregivers was so impactful. The strength of the children was impressive to see, and their positive attitudes were truly heart-warming.”

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