January 07, 2016
Communications and Marketing
Groups of Saint Anselm students travel to eight regions of the U.S. on Saturday, January 9 for Winter Break Alternative (WBA). The 108 students are volunteering at sites in Appalachia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and Staten Island, N.Y. as part of the college's Service and Solidarity Mission Program, now its 26th year.
"These trips help with the formation of our students and give them an opportunity to explore their spirituality, the meaning of life, and how they interact with others," says Director of Campus Ministry Susan Gabert '91. "The cultural immersion for students is really important because they learn about the world outside of the college."
WBA students work at soup kitchens, renovate homes, help the elderly and underprivileged children, support schools, and perform any other tasks defined by the site's needs.
A new site for the program this year is Project Hospitality in Staten Island, NY. Led by senior biochemistry major Elisha Griffin and senior nursing major Elaina De Mello, the Saint Anselm students will clean up areas affected by massive flooding from Hurricane Sandy. They will also support the Staten Island Community Serving Center by preparing and distributing meals and working in the food pantry.
The trip is Griffin's first as a leader of a WBA group, though she participated in a previous trip to Washington D.C.
"I am really looking forward to the direct service aspect of this trip. I think that the participants will learn a lot of very different but valuable lessons from this type of experience," says Griffin.
Training is extensive for the 16 WBA leaders (2 for each of 8 sites). Following selection the previous April, they attend weekly meetings as well as two weekend retreats. Their training covers skills in crisis management, diversity and cultural sensitivity, guest etiquette, communication with their sites, budgeting, and fundraising.
Leaders also learn to lead conversations and provide a comfortable environment for team members. At the end of each day at a work site, they guide their student groups in reflection sessions. These evening meetings include discussion about personal transformation, education, awareness, applying what they have learned and how their work makes a difference.
Griffin notes, "I hope that I can aid my participants in seeing a wider scope of humanity and to really open their eyes beyond the life we live at Saint Anselm College. I hope that I can help them to value the little things in life and to share their knowledge and new-found awareness with their friends when they return."
Gabert encourages the new and returning volunteers to attend trips with open minds and hearts, and believes that they will take away lasting and significant lessons.
"This will hopefully teach them what it means to be human and how to respect the dignity of others," says Gabert.
WBA volunteers return on Saturday, Jan. 16. Follow along with photos and read updates from their college blog.