Here at Gannon, we value service towards others and giving back to our community. We offer many opportunities to become involved in service through programs like GIVE Day, ABSTs, and other posted events throughout the year. As spring break quickly approaches, many students are preparing to go on Alternative-Break Service Trips (ABST). These trips are designed to give students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a community for a week and to live simply while serving others. Gannon students and staff will be as far at Ecuador and as close as our own Bayfront in Erie during these trips.

Gannon’s Center for Social Concerns describes the ABST programs as follows:

Through our Alternative Break Service Trip (ABST) program, student leaders design and facilitate experiences for their peers based on four pillars of service, simplicity, community and reflection. These immersions focus on broadening participants’ worldviews and fostering global citizenship, through service and relationship-building with neighbors across our human family. Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, all ABSTs seek to create intentionally inclusive, diverse community through their group formation and trip experiences. ABSTs are co-curricular, student-led, and accompanied by trained faculty and staff from all divisions of the Gannon University family.

This spring, I have been given the opportunity to travel to L’Arche Ontario to participate in the pillars of service, simplicity, community, and reflection. My ABST group focuses on the service of self. We won’t be building houses or schools, instead, we will be giving our time and presence to the members of the L’Arche community. This is important because the people at L’Arche can often be overlooked by their surrounding communities due to their differences.

L’Arche is a community where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities live with neuro-typical adults in a community home. L’Arche is not a nursing facility, it is a space where disabled adults are given a space to live freely with the assistance of caring adults instead of medical professionals.

The greater L’Arche communities also advocate for policy changes and boost awareness for the disabled populations. This is important because people with intellectual disabilities are often left out of policy discussions entirely, and decisions are made without ever consulting the people who will be affected. So, that is where L’Arche steps in to ensure that laws and protocols are in the interest of the populations they will be affecting.

As I prepare to spend a week in different L’Arche homes around Canada, I am focusing on how my service of time will impact the people I will be visiting. In being vulnerable, I will experience what life is like for a person who has always had a developmental delay. As a neuro-typical, I will never experience what it will be like to live with a cognitive disability. However, through this trip, I can open myself to understanding and relating as best I can.

Recently, Gannon’s Center for Social Concerns has combined with the TRAVEL program, which takes students on educational-based trips around the world; the center will is rebranding and will be known as The Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration. If you would like more information regarding the ABST program, TRAVEL program, or any of the other programs that the Center for Social Concerns runs, visit their website at: