November COVE Update: Alternative Break Trips This Winter

Gina Landon

This January, two groups of Colgate students will spend the last week of their winter break volunteering their time down South. The Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) is sponsoring two alternative break trips for students this winter.

After four successful hurricane relief trips last year, the COVE is continuing to support reconstruction efforts in Louisiana. During the week of January 11-17, a group of about 20 Colgate students and staff members will stay in New Orleans and spend their days gutting and cleaning damaged homes. There is still a great deal of relief work to be done, even a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina hit, and the Colgate group will be just one of many others working in the area.

From January 14-20, a second group of Colgate students and staff will be working with Habitat for Humanity in Hilton Head County, South Carolina. Hilton Head has a reputation for being a wealthy area, which overshadows the fact that the cost of living is so high that it is a challenge for the working poor to find adequate housing. The Colgate group will be reaching out to an underserved community as it begins construction work on a brand new home in Hilton Head County.

The COVE will also sponsor alternative break trips for spring break in March. Another hurricane relief trip will take students and staff to New Orleans for the week. A small group will travel to a dump outside of Mexico City to build sanitary latrines to reduce the spread of disease in the impoverished community of Tultitlan.

Finally, the Sophomore Year Experience (SYE) is offering a trip to Washington, D.C. to learn about non-profit agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). More information and applications for these spring break trips are available in the COVE, located in East Hall.

Alternative breaks are an integral part of the COVE’s mission. Though the trips are volunteer work, we hope that the students get as much out of the experience as the people we are helping. A major component of the COVE philosophy is creating a lasting impact; we hope that our efforts continue to improve people’s lives after we leave.

The break trips are also a chance to bring back understanding of problems that we don’t experience on the Colgate campus.

These trips make us more aware of the troubles in our world and allow students to explore the solutions they can offer. These issues are not only homelessness or disaster recovery, but also exposure to the diverse social realities that exist in communities throughout the world.

Colgate students who go on the trips not only represent the school to outside communities, but also bring parts of those communities back with them. We hope that these students are able to expose the rest of the student body to the work and experiences they have had.

The work we do before and after the trip is as important as the week itself; fundraising and awareness-building are the means by which the group can reach out to others.

Like many of the experiences of a liberal arts education, the alternative break trips are a chance to have fun with active and curious people while in a foreign and often challenging situation.

The growth that comes out of these experiences ripples out from the people involved in the larger communities while continuing to impact people even after the week is over.