Alternative Breaks program applies for grants

The community service program that sends students to volunteer over winter and spring breaks is in the running to receive two large-scale grants to help fund upcoming trips to New Orleans and Central and South America.

Alternative Breaks won the first round of the Classy Awards in October and is now competing against other winners from across the country for a $10,000 prize.

The student-run program is also competing against more than 1,000 other organizations for the Pepsi Refresh Project award, which offers a grand prize of $50,000 for “individuals, non-profits and pro-social businesses that can make a positive impact in the community,” according to the program’s website. That campaign ends Nov. 30.

“We decided to fundraise outside of the GW community and friends and family because our program has grown so much,” Supriya Shah, chair of the Alternative Breaks Program, said. “As a program we have to raise about $200,000 this year and [we] receive very little funding from the University.”

The Alternative Breaks Program has seen a 100-person increase between 2009 and 2010, sparking a need for additional funding. This year, Alternative Breaks is conducting service trips to 13 international and domestic sites.

Volunteers spend the months preceding the trip raising money to offset costs, but ultimately have to fund the trip individually if a balance remains. Shah said the most expensive trip has an $800 deposit.

“We want to keep the trips affordable for all students,” Shah said.

To help drum up support for Alternative Breaks in the grant competitions, the University, Program Board and the Student Association have all sent out mass e-mails asking the GW community to vote for the program in the Pepsi-sponsored contest.

Shannon Donahue, the freshmen service coordinator in the Office of Community Service, said the University wants to help Alternative Breaks succeed in the contest.

“GW has supported fundraising efforts through partnerships with the Division of External Relations, Alumni Relations, Office of the Vice President for Research, athletics and Program Board,” Donahue said. She did not respond to questions over the weekend about University funding for the program.

Besides the contest, students will host the third annual Charity Ball and a basketball tournament to raise money.

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