Springfield College returns to the hustle and bustle as students come back from Spring Break. The abandonment of the campus is finally replaced with students walking around showing off their new hairstyles, tanner skin, and restocking their dorm rooms. However, not all Springfield College students completely went home or went away for vacation.
The message spread widely across campus is the mission to educate the whole person in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others. Giving back is a huge part in what Springfield College stands for. It can be found in so many different programs offered on campus, but Alternative Spring Break wholeheartedly stands by that mission.
Alternative Spring Break is where dedicated students give back locally and nationally to different communities. Service trips range from right here at Springfield, outside of the state to places like Houston, Texas, and even outside of the US in countries like Haiti.
Senior Devon Rivard led one of the trips, located in Houston, Texas. During the Houston trip specifically, students helped cleaned up a little league field that had been flooded. They also could not fall far from their home of Springfield College as they visited the Houston campus to hear about students’ stories with their experience with devastating natural disaster of Hurricane Harvey.
Rivard’s passion for people and giving back is humbling and honorable. She talks about how giving back has changed her, “It is hard to come back to everyday life knowing that people are still waiting for plumbing repairs or new floors even after 6 months,” she explains, “It is important to keep doing service in our own neighborhoods, but it makes us grateful for what we do have. I am glad we could share our stories about Houston because the news and media might have stopped talking about the hurricane, but it is our job to let the Houston community know we are there for them and that they are not forgotten.”
The students who dedicated themselves to the Houston trip most definitely left their mark with their service and genuine support.
About 1,700 miles away from Houston, Texas is another area that is no stranger to natural disasters: Haiti.
Another group of Springfield College students visited Port Au Prince, Haiti to give back to the children of the Have Faith Haiti Mission. There, kids who don’t have families to rely on, for nurture and care, grow up there and live there.
Author Mitch Albom, who came to Springfield College as a speaker, took matters into his hands when it was first just an orphanage that was close to being non-existent. He took the reins and has developed a life-changing place where children are cared for medically, nutritionally, educationally and spiritually.
Junior Kristen Madeia co-lead this past Haiti trip with senior Jordan Pelletier. Madeia had been to Haiti before and knew she had to go back.
She speaks about the way the trip changed her, “It completely changes your perspective on the privileges we have being American and growing up in this country, specifically thinking of children,” She clarifies, “We don’t necessarily take advantage of our education and value it as much as children in Haiti do. It’s interesting how the children down there really value what they are learning. They are so excited to go to school and to tell you what they are learning in comparison to kids here, who dread going to school every day and don’t take their education seriously.”
Madeia was not the only person who really felt that this trip changed and challenged her perspective.
Senior Hadrian Rodriguez, a first timer to the Alternative Spring Break program, passionately shares his biggest takeaway, “The amount of joy, enthusiasm, strength, and passion that all of those we interacted with was incredible and helped me realize with the help of others, you can make a change in someone’s life,” he emphasizes, “Having the ability to have running water, electricity without the need of a generator, and clean streets, is a gift and a privilege that I’m lucky to have. Because of this experience, I realized I want to do this again, even if it’s in the US because I truly felt that I made an impact on at least one person I interacted with.”
A recurring theme throughout these trips is the idea that giving back not only changes the lives of other people, but yours as well.
Whether you stay in Springfield and help the local community, or you go somewhere farther away, the impact left on the people that are helped is something that they will never forget. Every single act of giving back is important, even if it’s big or small.
When Mitch Albom spoke at Springfield College, he left audience in awe but one of his biggest takeaway was that “Giving is Living.” To fully and completely live your life is to give to others and that’s how you will live on forever, in the hearts of those that you touch.