More likely than not, the vision that comes to mind when thinking of “Spring Break” is one of beaches, sun, and care-free relaxation. But, for 15 Boston University students (who were mostly first-years and sophomores), their Spring Break was spent in an alternative way. They chose to spend their week in Hartford, Connecticut working very hard to provide services to our most vulnerable community members.
With dozens of Alternative Spring Break trips to choose from all over the country, ranging anywhere from environmental clean-ups to working in a retirement home for nuns, these students chose to spend their week with Hands On Hartford, for a “fusion” trip. The two trip coordinators, junior Emma Rehard and sophomore Sheena Chatterjee, were drawn to this trip because they were able to spend each day at a different Hands On Hartford site, getting to see the different needs of our community.
Students participated in a number of different activities throughout the Hands On Hartford sites: painting at Peter’s Retreat, playing BINGO and serving lunch at Community Meals, shopping with guests at the Community Pantry, packing hundreds of bags for our Backpack Nutrition Program, collecting 341 pounds of canned goods at a food drive, amongst many other important tasks. Along with providing services, the students (who came from as close as West Hartford and as far as San Francisco) also were able to learn more about the Hartford community through a walking tour of the city with a Faces of Homelessness speaker, and a tour of the Connecticut Capitol Building.
At the end of the week, all students walked away with a smile on their faces, and a better understanding of the needs of the Hartford community and an experience they can bring home with them. When asked to respond to the statement “I’m glad I chose this Alternative Spring Break trip”, all 15 answered “Strongly Agree.” And what the students are taking away from this experience can be summed up with these two quotes:
“The feeling I’m taking away from this week is: really seeing how lucky I am to have so many people and things in my life, and seeing how it’s possible to have a positive attitude in a really negative situation.”
“The feeling I’m taking away from his week is: a greater commitment to service. I feel like a lot of the values and beliefs that I talked about before coming here have been validated and strengthened by this experience and I feel energized and excited to take what I’ve learned back to Boston to continue to try to make a difference.”