ASB 2016 – 24 students and four advisors travelled to Columbia, S.C. for an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) service trip to assist the communities affected by the October flood. “It was fantastic to be a part of a group of people willing to forfeit their spring break for service for others. It is a rare opportunity to be a part of a community which wholeheartedly serves others and has a great time doing so. You know you’re a part of something transformative when every member is excited to wake up early to pick up trash in an alligator infested swamp,” said Trey Neveux, a senior mechanical engineering major.
The students travelled to South Carolina on Saturday, March 5 and returned to campus in the early hours of Saturday, March 12. Community Collaboration International (CCI) organized the volunteer effort and hosted over 150 students from colleges including Cornell College, Tarleton State University, and Butler University, in addition to Penn State Behrend. The Behrend volunteers were divided into four groups and travelled to various worksites within a 70 mile radius of the campground home base each day. Projects ranged from working on the Palmetto Trail that will eventually run across the entire state to cleaning up the campground at Camp Robinson to gutting, repainting, and replacing the flooring in victims’ homes. Students collaborated with other college students on different projects each day. Students would wake up early to assist with breakfast preparation and clean up, pack their lunches, and head off to their assigned worksites. As the volunteers dispersed from the campground, Steve Lawless, a leader from CCI, bid them farewell in crazy costumes and left them with a few pieces of advice. On Tuesday, dressed as Mother Theresa, barefoot with a dish cloth on his head, he said, “Everywhere that I go in the world, I always try to spread a little something. Here’s what I brought out for you this morning: You don’t always get a chance to go out there and be the big hero and be the important person. You don’t always get a chance to grab down the headlines and make the nightly news, but you always get the chance to get out there every day, every day with a big love.”
Students were also responsible for working with the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. They cleaned up trash along the highway displaced by the floods, helped prepare certain areas for controlled burns, created a dog trail, and removed pine tree saplings that were overtaking the forest. This trip was both a humbling experience and a learning experience for all of the volunteers. They not only motivated each other throughout the week to continue serving the South Carolina communities but also inspired others to follow in their footsteps and help with the flood relief effort.
The students instilled hope in these victims and helped to spread their love throughout the week. “Something that I learned through this trip: No matter the amount of service you give, it will always be helping someone in some way, and it will better the community,” said Kristopher Knorr, a sophomore international business and finance major. “Spreading positivity and laughter can make a world of difference in someone’s life, and ASB did that for the people of South Carolina this past week.” After a long day of service, students returned to Camp Robinson to get cleaned up, help out with dinner preparation and cleanup, and participate in group reflection sessions. This type of volunteer experience requires students to process a lot all at once, and the group reflection sessions were a wonderful opportunity for them to share their thoughts and feelings. Several nights at the camp featured speakers from the local community who described the devastating effects of the flood and expressed their deep gratitude for the work of the volunteers. On the way home, the flight attendant made a special shout out over the intercom to the “Alternative Spring Breakers” for giving up their time off to perform service and help the southern communities.
A quote from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch that summarizes the students drive to serve communities reads, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”
– Liz Mamros, Class of 2018