Since 2008, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has offered alternative break trips for students to participate in service learning, expand their world view and give back to another community.
This year UW Oshkosh students will travel to New York City, Guatemala and St. Louis during spring break in March. During interim, nine students learned about education and privilege through an alternative break trip to Honduras Jan. 23–30.
“These trips, in one week’s time, have the ability to change a student’s perspective and worldview for life,” said Missy Burgess, assistant director for student involvement and Honduras trip adviser.
Through the Honduras alternative break trip, students worked with Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE), a nonprofit committed to leadership development in at-risk Honduran youth.
“This year alone our students donated nearly 500 pounds, more than 1,500 health and nutrition items, to the OYE and La Mercedes Nutrition Center,” Burgess said. “Our students also participated in painting a mural, spent time playing with children and distributed vitamins and anti-parasitic medication.”
Senior finance major and criminal justice minor Mackenzie Daines, of Cashton, said the trip changed her perspective and gave her a new appreciation for the opportunities she has had throughout her life.
“I learned a lot about myself and how privileged I am compared to the citizens of Honduras,” Daines said.
For Daines, one of the most impactful experiences happened when handing out vitamins and parasite medication for children and pre-natal vitamins for pregnant women.
“These people were wearing old clothing, living in homes made of tin that were about the size of our average living rooms, most wearing no shoes on their feet and they were some of the happiest people I have ever met,” Daines said. “The children receiving their vitamins acted like the kids here act when they get candy on Halloween. The idea that something so simple can create so much happiness for these people actually made me envious of them.”
“We know that global learning and service learning are two high impact practices for student engagement,” Burgess said.
“The greatest lesson I learned was to stop taking what I have for granted and to actually appreciate the pure luck it was that I was born into the life I have,” Daines said.
Sophomore social work major Carly Lemke, of Oconto Falls, said the trip changed her perspective on life and made her more thankful for all of the things, such as pursuing an education, that she said she used to take for granted.
“I think the importance of Alternative Break trips is to learn that every person can make a difference,” Lemke said. “I can say I made a difference in El Progresso, Honduras.”
After participating in an alternative break trip, students gain an insight into different perspectives and backgrounds, become more effective communicators and listeners and improve their own leadership skills.
“I learned more in that one week than I do in a month. We learned so much about Honduras’ culture, why the country is corrupt, their education system and so much more,” Lemke said.
Daines said the trip helped her gain an understanding of other cultures, as well as to take action for causes she believes in.
The students who attended the Honduras trip decided to start a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $1,000, enough to fund one year of high school for two students in Honduras.
“We are asking that instead of purchasing a cup of coffee one day, think about donating that $5 to our campaign and help these amazing youth to get an education,” Daines said.
During spring break, students will be participating in alternative break trips to New York City to learn about healthcare advocacy and diversity traveling, to Guatemala to learn about the economics of coffee and to St. Louis to learn about community minded citizenship.