Alternative Breaks gains SA funding, org status

The University’s largest student-run volunteer program is set to receive $15,000 from the Student Assoication this semester, a victory for students who say GW has failed to adequetly fund the program’s service trips.

Alternative Breaks had been ineligible to receive money from the SA in the past, as it operates under the Office of Community Service, a technicality that drew ire from members of the program. OCS is part of Student and Academic Support Services, which distributes its own funding.

Alternative Breaks will officially remain under OCS, but it will now also receive SA funding.

Finance Committee Vice Chair Travis Holler, ESIA-U, said the program has always been a student organization, but never went through the process of registering through the University.

Alt Breaks leaders said the program has had to seek out funding from outside sources to keep up with the demand for participation, adding that the University has failed to give them adequate funding in the past.

“The access to funding will help to alleviate our fundraising burden,” co-chair Supriya Shah said. “In the past, we have held program-wide fundraisers such as the Charity Ball as well as individual trip fundraisers. We will still continue to fundraise despite receiving funding from the SA because of our large budget.”

Alternative Breaks has become an increasingly popular program over recent years, with roughly 400 students on trips this year and another 300 waitlisted.

Shah estimated the budget for this year is about $200,000, including flights, lodging and program fees.

Students participating in Alternative Breaks are required to pay for about one-third of the trip’s cost, and usually undertake fundraising opportunities to raise the remaining amount.

“In order to keep the cost of the trips affordable for all students, it requires lot of fundraising and with the growth of the program and the international trips, that cost has greatly increased,” co-chair Matt Francolino said, noting that the SA funds will be an asset to all trips. “We can [now] focus less on fundraising and more on service.”

The $15,000 the program has received is in initial allocations, and according to Shah, the organization also intends to apply for co-sponsorships to assist in upcoming fundraisers.

“We’re all really pleased that we’re able to finally give them money,” Holler, said. “As a student that has been on multiple Alternative Break trips, I have realized the importance of the program and the integral part it plays in the service learning aspect of GW.”

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