This winter break I attended my very first service trip through a program called Rutgers University Alternative Breaks. I initially wanted to go on the trip because I had always been very interested in service but also I saw this as a great way for me to meet to people and break out of my comfort zone. It amazing how it ended up turning into one of the most eye opening experience of my life.
Education reform has always been an important topic to me as I believe that education is something that is often treated as a privilege when it is a right.
My trip specifically was in Baltimore and dealt and was through a nonprofit organization called Living Classrooms, which sought to help those in Baltimore with limited access to a good education. We spent most of the days with children in the B.U.G.S. (Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students) program which was an after school program for the underfunded schools in Baltimore. Our group of volunteers got to help the younger kids in activities that they participated in such as STEM class which included doing math or science experiments, gardening, art and cooking. It was a lot of fun and often times I didn’t even realize that I was doing volunteer work. However, seeing the looks on the staffs’ faces after we were able to help them organize the library and paint the new computer room warmed my heart, and made me realize the impact of the small actions that we took. It was also great doing the activities with the kids. We got to play freeze tag as well as just have amazing conversations with them. In an area where so many children struggle to graduate high school, I loved hearing that some of the children aspired to be a coders, teachers, doctors, and scientists.
On one day of our service trip we worked with Project S.E.R.V.E. (Service- Empowerment- Revitalization- Volunteerism- Employment Training) which aids ex-convicts with rehabilitation and reentry into the work force. Not only did it completely change the way that I think about convicts but it also brought attention to the systematic injustices that occur daily in these people’s lives. Hearing the amazing stories of people who got out of jail and spent every day of their lives trying to better themselves and make the most of their second chance of life was truly inspiring for me to hear.
For me, deciding to go on an alternative break was a very spontaneous decision that I am extremely happy I made. I recommend that everyone go on one, or at least try to attend some type of service trip. I was someone who always stayed in my bubble and never really realized the deep rooted issues that go on in this country, and by finally seeing the issues that I hear so often about its made me much more appreciative of the opportunities I have given in my life, and made me value the importance of service.