Students Serve Others During Spring Break

March 4, 2019

By Shannon Desmond '19

During spring break, 76 Saint Anselm College students are volunteering at service sites around the country through the Office of Campus Ministry’s Service & Solidarity Missions trips. Fourteen student-leaders are managing the seven groups of participants serving at organizations in Maine, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Mississippi, and South Dakota. This is the 29th year that service trips have been offered through Campus Ministry during the college’s winter and spring breaks.

The groups left on Saturday, March 2 and will return to campus on Saturday, March 9. Each service trip has its own distinct mission, but they all share the common goals of helping the less fortunate while providing opportunity for students themselves to grow in the process.

Two student leaders accompany each trip to guide group members through the experience and promote self-reflection among participants. Leaders often designate time in the evenings for group discussions where students reflect on what they encountered during the day, confronting issues such as poverty, hunger, and education needs.

Campus minister, Riley Casey, explains that Spring Break Alternative (SBA), particularly the trip that works with the Re-Member organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, can be eye-opening. The South Dakota volunteers help install bunk beds, outhouses, and skirting around mobile homes for the Oglala Lakota people. Throughout the week, they also learn more about Lakota history and take a tour of the Badlands.

Casey says, “The South Dakota trip is one of the more unique ones, as it’s very educational. Native American history is familiar to many from classes and books, but when you go to a reservation, you hear from the people who experienced it directly.”  

These trips are, “a chance for our students to witness things face-to face, and give a face and a story to people. Everyone has a story and is a person; everyone is human just like you, and you recognize their dignity on these trips,” says Casey. Father Mathias Durette, O.S.B., of Saint Anselm Abbey is also accompanying the group in South Dakota.

Another unique service trip, “Embracing Different Abilities,” takes place at The Benedictine School in Ridgely, Maryland. Students work as teacher’s assistants to serve about 200 young adults and children with disabilities, ranging between the ages of five to 21. The school’s central values mirror the core Benedictine values at Saint Anselm College, and include compassion, caring, dignity of work, and hospitality.

At other service sites, student-participants provide food to people who have serious illnesses that inhibit their ability to cook or pick up their own meals, lend a hand in soup kitchens, complete yard work, paint, farm, and more. The types of communities benefiting from these actions include the impoverished, underprivileged youth, cancer and HIV/AIDS patients, and young adults with disabilities. See the full list of site descriptions.

On all the trips, Casey hopes volunteers learn how to fight for justice. Charity, she explains, is giving someone a sandwich, while justice is fighting for the end of hunger. “The objective is to find a way to make a difference in the world, and to remember to not let anyone’s service trip be limited to just a one-week experience.”

See photos and read updates on the Service & Solidarity blog and follow them on Twitter with #SACSBA: @saintanselm and @sta_campusmin.

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