For many of us, spring break plans are not a priority during October.  There’s still so much time before break next semester and other activities to look forward to before then. However, for some students, it’s all they’re thinking about as they make plans to take an Alternative Break Service Trip (ABST.)

Alternative Break Service Trips take place over Gannon’s spring and fall breaks. Instead of going home or on vacation, students will travel the world to give back to communities in need.

This year, trips will be going to Detroit, Toronto, Haiti, Guatemala and Mexico, plus a to-be-announced location in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.  Each trip focuses on a different social justice issue, from working with HIV and AIDS affected communities, to economic and community development, to food security. Participants in each trip will work directly with those in the affected communities to help in any way they are able.

The trips have both student and faculty leaders. Student leaders are chosen by people who have previously participated in an ABST, in conjunction with who the Center for Social Concerns feels can handle the responsibility of the position. These leaders are chosen early in the application process so they can help present information to students interested in potentially participating. Student leaders also help prepare their group for the trip through training and information sessions that take place until the group is ready to depart for their trip.

While on an ABST, participants live and work with members of the community. They share in the daily experiences with those who inhabit the community so they may be completely submerged in their work.

Sometimes, that means overcoming a language barrier, and experiencing major culture shock. However, the service performed over the week helps students to rise above their difficulties, and form meaningful relationships within the community. People who have participated on these trips are often forever changed, and find they develop a more open mind about the world.

If you’re interested in being part of an Alternative Break Service Trip, or if you have any questions about the trips, feel free to stop in the Office of Center for Social Concerns. Applications for spring 2014 trips are due by Oct. 15, and are available on EngaGeU.