For students involved in BG Alternative Breaks, service is about passion and engagement with those in need.
bGAB is a student-led program within the Center for Community and Civic Engagement that organizes opportunities for students to travel to other communities and help them with social justice issues that hinder them, while also teaching the students about specific issues and how they can impact others.
bGAB is a BG-based subsidiary of Break Away, a national nonprofit organization that facilitates these alternative breaks across the country.
The CCCE has organized four trips for BGSU’s upcoming spring break.
One of these trips is going to Woodland Harvest Mountain Farm in Boone, North Carolina. The trip, led by site leaders junior Madi Stump and sophomore Remey Schneider, is focused on providing assistance to the self-sustaining, environmentally friendly farm through clean-up on and around the property, structural maintenance and preparation for their spring harvest.
Their service tends to be weather-dependent and as-needed, so much of the farm work will depend on what the owners need. After each day, they reflect on their day and what they learned from it.
“That’s something that bGAB and our national organization Break Away does. We don’t do service trips; we do service learning trips,” Stump said.
The learning portion of the trips is just as important to the students as the actual service. bGAB wants its participants to become “active citizens,” said senior Paul Garbarino, a site leader for the trip to Staunton, Virginia.
With this trip, Garbarino wants to ensure participants come to understand the difference between a volunteer and an active citizen. He defines a volunteer as someone who occasionally does service and lacks engagement.
His definition of an active citizen is what he hopes the participants will become over the course of the trip.
“We want to create active citizens who are individuals who don’t just volunteer; they’re individuals who are passionate about serving, and they also have a full understanding of what they’re doing and why the problem exists and have a genuine passion to finding a solution to the issue,” Garbarino said.
Garbarino, with fellow site leader and junior Will Robinson, will be assisting Renewing Homes of Greater Augusta in performing critical maintenance and modifications to the homes of disadvantaged individuals in Augusta County, Virginia.
For the trip to Chestertown, Maryland, senior Dominique Scripter and graduate student Alex Bakhaus will be assisting the Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue on cleaning, gardening and structural maintenance around the property. Scripter has participated in two bGAB trips and led a weekend trip before.
The site leaders for each trip appreciate service and were inspired to become the active citizens they are today. Scripter was originally inspired to participate in bGAB because she enjoys volunteering, but after her first trip, she knew she had found something meaningful.
“What inspired me to keep doing bGAB was the impact it can have on yourself but also the people around you and the community,” Scripter said.
The impact of bGAB trips shows through with participants’ experiences in the communities they are volunteering in. For the trip to Chicago, site leaders junior Sarah Kittner and sophomore Erin Coran, will be partnering with the Heartland Alliance to prepare and distribute food, and if the weather permits, assist in urban farming.
For Kittner, the social issues these participants will be tackling are vital to the trip. Being in inner-city Chicago, they will see issues such as food insecurity, gentrification and poverty.
“Putting yourself in a new place with new people and exposing yourself to social issues that you don’t have as much experience with can really shift the way you look at the world,” Kittner said.
bGAB wants all of its participants to develop a passion for service. If participants can be inspired to do service, maybe they can inspire those around them to do the same, creating a ripple effect of active citizenship like the one the site leaders are a part of.