Students participate in alternative breaks
This group of students traveled to Peru to assist mobile medical clinics and development programs. Organized by Erin Powers, the fourteen students partnered with students from other schools through the program MEDLIFE.
- Students travel and give back with Alternative Spring Break
- Shopping for Charity
- CVC's Good Deeds of the Week
Spring break is typically a time for beaches, home-cooked meals and catching up on rest. This month, Colby students left the Hill for some much-needed vacation time, and while many went home or hit the beaches with friends, others used their free time to give back. Four trips left campus for destinations both foreign and domestic to change the world both globally and locally.
Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is one of the more popular programs organized by the Colby Volunteer Center, with the goal of engaging students in spending their time to help others. The trips are typically funded through bake sales and other fundraising efforts to lessen the cost to the individual student who wishes to participate. This year, one trip went to Nicaragua and two other trips were organized to volunteer in New York, with one in New York City and the other in the suburbs.
Cole Yaverbaum ’14 led the ASB trip that was based in Westchester County, N.Y., opening her own house to a group of seven students and exploring possibilities for making change in her own backyard. A native of Larchmont, N.Y., Yaverbaum had been planning the trip since the fall, which she spent reading applications of potential trip members and “contacting several volunteer organizations in her hometown and New York City and [choosing] the ones that seemed to be most meaningful.” In five days, the group worked in different locations, gaining valuable experience about the methods of help that can be given to those in need. The West Side Campaign Against Hunger was where the group spent their Tuesday and Wednesday. “[It is] set up like a grocery store: all the food is very organized on shelves, and so the people in need come in on a certain day of the week and, as guided by a point system (determined by how many people need to be fed), they are able to actually shop for what they want. We thought this was so cool because it seemed to restore so much more dignity back into the idea of being handed out food,” Yaverbaum. The pantry also offers daily cooking lessons with a chef that can be used as training for cooking certification.
The group spent two other days of the break helping staff at the Sarah Neuman Center, an assisted living facility in Larchmont. Upon arrival, Yaverbaum explained how the group began to notice the “pervasive, indifferent feelings of the staff, which is understandable....It’s so difficult to tend to every person’s needs when there are so many people that need constant help.” This observation, she added, gave new meaning to the goal of the trip. “We felt then, more than ever, that our volunteer work was important because we were able to provide that personal touch that so many of these elderly people were missing in their lives. We listened and spoke with them ,and they really did appreciate it so much,” Yaverbaum said.
Only an hour away from Yaverbaum’s group, 12 more Colby students did their part to make a difference in New York City on the ASB Urban Trip, which focused on the issues of urban poverty and homelessness. Kristy Glasheen ’14 planned and led the trip with fellow sophomores Stephanie Marano and Czarina Envangelista. The three spent much of the year figuring out logistics for housing, transportation, worksites and fundraising. For six days, the group stayed at the Broadway Presbyterian Church, volunteering there and at Part of the Solution, Yorkville Common Pantry, Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, West Side Campaign Against Hunger and B’nai Jeshurun. Glasheen emphasized the trip as a way of bringing together Colby students who may not have had the chance to interact on the Hill, and providing a new kind of experience for students of all class years.
While some ASB trips chose to stay stateside, another group of Colby students traveled to Peru with Medicine, Education, and Development for Lower-Income Families Everywhere (MEDLIFE) to assist with mobile medical clinics and development programs. The trip was organized by Erin Powers ’12, who contacted the organization to create a clinic specifically for the week the trip would be stationed in Lima. Fourteen Colby participants along with groups of students from Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago and the University of Washington took advantage of the opportunity.
Tracey Tomlinson ’12 made the choice to spend her senior spring break in Peru because of its connection to her interests. “I am entering the field of global health post-graduation and thought the trip sounded like a great way to add to my experience in the field,” she said. The students stayed in a hostel, making the daily trip to surrounding communities, “working as an assistant to the dentists, to the OB/GYN, to the doctors, teaching children how to brush their teeth or recording vital signs,” Tomlinson explained. “The other two days people were either on a tour of an area called Pamplona, which is the largest slum outside of Lima and built into a steep hillside, or working on building a concrete staircase in the same area to increase ease of mobility for the residents of that community.”
In addition to gaining relevant and valuable experiences for her post-Colby life, Tomlinson learned some greater lessons about the power of community and giving back. One of her favorite parts of the trip, she said, was “working in the clinic and being able to chat with the patients. I have a pretty limited knowledge of Spanish but everyone was understanding and would put in the effort to help me be involved in the conversations. The people I worked with—the MEDLIFE staff, other Colby students, and, of course, the patients—were so genuine and so passionate about MEDLIFE’s mission that it was truly inspiring to be a part of that world, even if it was just for a week.”