More than 140 students trekked through the Western Hemisphere this month to rebuild infrastructure and work with disenfranchised youth as part of the Alternative Breaks program.
The 27 students who traveled to Puerto Rico planted an acre of organic farming. They spent the bulk of their time working on the farm, learning how to plant and live sustainably, and helped construct a natural building called a super adobe – a sustainable shelter.
Junior Charles Guinn, a co-leader of the trip, said he experienced a strong connection with the people he met on his trip and physically accomplished a lot.
“We did not have any hot showers,” Guinn said. “We were using a compost bucket for a restroom, but nobody cared. We had such high spirits and high energy. It was fantastic.”
The trip gave students time to appreciate the resources available to them, the junior said.
“There is always a lot of joking and comedy, but these trips really make you ask questions by yourself about life,” Guinn said.
The 20 students who traveled to Honduras worked with the Organization for Youth Empowerment, an organization for underprivileged youth.
“Their whole purpose is to get students to stay in school, do well in school, and find their own voice by themselves,” said Supriya Shah, a senior and the program’s co-leader.
Students in Panama had an environmental and health focus, building eight stoves designed to use 70 percent less fuel, and 11 water filters to clean polluted stream water. The water filters and stoves were designed to be reused for years to come.
Senior Tara Dorfman said the work would provide the people in El Entradero, Panama with basic resources like clean water.
“Things we take for granted every day were not available to them,” she said.
Dorfman said she was concerned before going on the trip, “that people there wouldn’t be excited that we were there or would feel threatened, but we were welcomed with such open arms and such gratitude. It was so extremely humbling.”