Alternative Spring Break

By Lauren Castner

While many college students are returning from spring break this week, most high school students haven’t had their spring vacation yet.  You might still be looking forward to your week away from school.  Instead of lounging around the house and catching up on your daytime TV shows or sleeping in until noon every day, consider doing something for others!  Alternative spring breaks are a popular way to give back to the community and to attempt to alleviate some of the burdens that other people carry.

Habitat for Humanity is a great resource if you’re looking to get involved in a service trip over your spring break.  You don’t have to go far; chances are they have a chapter close to where you live!  Habitat’s mission is to eliminate poverty housing around the globe by providing affordable housing for families who are willing to put in the labor to help build their home.  Families work alongside volunteers to construct simple, but respectable, housing.  The mortgage payments on Habitat Houses go towards providing housing for other families in need.  To date, the program has helped to build and finance more than 400,000 homes globally.

The program recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.  In all, it has contributed more than $15.5 million towards eliminating poverty housing.  Many students, aged 16 and older, from all around the U.S. turn out in record numbers to participate in Habitat’s Collegiate Challenge.  This program allows young women and men the opportunity to spend a week eliminating substandard housing in a community and build safe and reliable housing for families in the area.  There are sites to choose from in each of the fifty states, as well as international placements.  Not only do students get to work on housing projects, they also form bonds and friendships that far outlast the length of their trip.  More than 166,000 students have participated in the Collegiate Challenge to date.

Although you must be 16 to actively work on a building site with Habitat for Humanity, there are plenty of other ways you can get involved with this program.  Act! Speak! Build! Week is a way for younger students to become involved with Habitat for Humanity by raising awareness for the program.  World Habitat Day is the first Monday in October, and it’s never too early to start planning awareness activities or fundraisers now.  Spring break doesn’t have to be the only time of year that you give back!

I have done three consecutive alternative spring breaks through my school, Boston College.  I’m a member of the Appalachia Volunteers program and we work directly with Habitat for Humanity and Volunteers for Communities to place our 600 volunteers in placements around the Appalachia region.  I’ve really benefited from the program, not only because I have made long-lasting and meaningful friendships with the students I’ve worked with and the communities we’ve visited, but because it also forces me to recognize the problems with poverty in our country.

Have you ever worked on a Habitat Site?  Done an alternative Spring Break before and want to share?  Tell us about your experiences in the comments section!

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