Spring service enhances break

Although most students of Gannon University got to relax for a week of spring break, a number of them surrendered their vacation time to volunteer on an alternative spring break service trip. Two of the trips focused on providing aid for areas that have been the victims of mammoth natural disasters.

Allison Adkins, a senior liberal studies major, who participated in the service trip to Haiti, said she decided to volunteer because she wanted to do her part to help the region affected by the earthquake several years ago.

“I wanted to go and help and experience the culture,” Adkins said, “and be with people who live differently than me and see what they value.”

Adam Hoffman, a senior biology/pre-med major, chose to go to Joplin, Mo. He said the chance to volunteer in the United States as well as assist with a city still suffering from a tornado made his decision an easy one.

“I think that helping our neighbors is something we should do and there’s a lot that needs to be done in our own backyard,” Hoffman said. “It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good thing to go out of the country but I feel like we can also help people here in our own country.”

Hoffman said that although he didn’t get a chance to go home and visit his family, he had no doubts about finally going on his first service trip.

Adkins ventured to New Orleans for last year’s alternative spring break service trip, so she didn’t hesitate to join the trip to Haiti this year. She said that missing a week of vacation to volunteer her time doesn’t bother her so much.

“I think what’s good about a service trip on spring break is that it’s only a week, it’s not a lot of time to give up,” Adkins said.

Adkins said there are more important things to gain by participating in a service trip than losing a few days of relaxation at home.

“It helps shape your perspective and make you the person you are,” she said. “Hopefully helps you to see things a little bit differently and see how others live their lives. It changes your perspective to take a step back and see the world a different way.”

Hoffman said he helped clean up a few lots of demolished properties as well as rebuild homes. He said the area still needs help and that he would return if he had the opportunity.

“Absolutely, I would definitely go back there,” Hoffman said. “They’re getting to the point right now where most of the labor that they need will be more skilled. They’re getting past the initial clean up.”

Adkins said she volunteered most of her time at a Haitian orphanage, both fixing up the property and spending time with the facility’s 97 children. She also said that she would like to go back sometime in the future.

“I absolutely love Haiti and the people there,” Adkins said. “They’re not like people in America; simplicity is what they live in. They value their religion and their families and it’s so great that people who have so little are still much more hopeful and so grateful.”

Adkins said that she would encourage other students to volunteer for service trips because they are “eye-opening” experiences.

“You’re never going to know how a different country is unless you go yourself and experience it,” Adkins said. “Before I went to Haiti, you could have told me anything about a developing country, but now that I’ve actually been there, I have a completely different perspective and a better appreciation for the people that live in a developing country.”

Hoffman said that one of the most important things to remember about volunteering is that every little act helps.

“As much as you help the people there you can only do so much,” Hoffman said. “You gain much more from the experience; I think it helps you grow personally.

“You’re not going to rebuild a whole city by yourself, but it’s good for you. It helps the people there and helps your personal development.”



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