Spring break trip highlights service

College students across the nation will flock to the beach for spring break, but some GW students and faculty will head to the shore for a different reason – to perform community service in coastal South Carolina.

Sixteen students and two faculty members will spend spring break on South Carolina’s Sea Islands as part of the Protestant Campus Ministry’s “Alternative Spring Break” program. They will work for Rural Missions, a community service organization similar to Habitat for Humanity.

Since 1992 more than 120 GW students, faculty and staff have spent their spring break painting churches in Ghana or reconstructing dilapidated houses near the Texas-Mexico border.

“(The trip) offers an alternative to students other than going down to Florida and drinking the week away,” said senior Erica Frankel, one of the trip’s three student organizers.

This year, the volunteers plan to repair or build homes during their weeklong stay on the islands, but specific details of their trip are still in the works.

The group members will spend the week learning about the history of the islands and the area’s future, said Rev. Laureen Smith, the program’s founder.

The isolated nature of the islands has preserved the culture of the islands despite growing tourist activity, Smith said. Smith said exposure to the islands’ Gullah people – descendants of slaves brought from West Africa and the Caribbean – will be an enriching experience for the students.

Zahir Sutarwala, who has been on the annual trip before, said he has a “deeper understanding” of the problems that plague the regions he has visited on the program.

Neighbors Project volunteer Dauda Griffin, who worked at the Texas-Mexico border last spring, said the experience helped him form clearer ideas about community service.

During the next few weeks, the group will raise money to fund the trip.

Frankel and junior Amy Bluestein, another student coordinator, said the group only has raised $650 of the its $6000 goal.

Bluestein said the group would like to raise more than its goal so it can give the Rural Missions money to use for its projects.

Group members said they hope to receive financial support from campus organizations, churches, local businesses and family members.

Participants will hold a bake sale and raffle off tickets for free movie passes and local restaurant gift certificates Feb. 3-5. At the end of February, Froggy Bottom Pub will donate Friday night cover charge proceeds and half its tips to the group.

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