Alternative Breaks pitches first Asia trip

Media Credit: Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Chris Evans, a junior, hopes to help lead a GW Alternative Breaks trip to the Philippines next spring. It would be the program’s first trip to Asia.

Updated: June 26, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.

Alternative Breaks will likely offer its first-ever trip to Asia next year, allowing students to perform community service farther away from campus than any previous group.

The organization is waiting for student life officials to approve the three trips, including a week-long stay in the Philippines next year. Students who sign up for the Philippines trip will help rebuild communities after the deadliest typhoon in the developing country’s history devastated entire towns in 2013.

The program would be the first to cross into the Eastern Hemisphere, sending students on an almost day-long flight to the small string of islands that are about 1,000 miles east of Vietnam. In past years, Alternative Breaks sent students to South American countries, such as Guatemala, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

The trip’s leaders, Regina del Carmen and Chris Evans, said they want to take about 10 students to assist with construction projects and clearing debris. They also hope to take short excursions across the country to experience the area’s culture and relax on the Southeast Asian beaches.

The group would be stationed in Tacloban, a city devastated last November by Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people. A full itinerary is still in the works.

Students will team up with the Global Peace Youth Corps, which only uses sustainable materials in its building projects. Evans said the partnership will ensure that every structure the students build will endure future natural disasters.

“You can’t just go in and take fun pictures of yourself with a shovel and feel good about yourselves,” Evans said. “It’s important to do something not only that will last now, but the next decade.”

Del Carmen, who is also president of the Philippine Cultural Society, said she pitched the trip as a way to encourage more GW students from Asian backgrounds to participate in Alternative Breaks. She plans to reach out to students at universities in the Philippines and ensure the group focuses on empowering locals.

“We’re going to be try to be working with different members of the community alongside them, so they can have pride and know what their community is and what it can become,” del Carmen said.

Though costs have yet to be determined, program leaders said they expect students to each pay about $800. As a group, they will need to fundraise through bake sales, late-night pancake events and appeals to family and friends.

Before Alternative Breaks registered with the Student Association in 2011, students had to fundraise or pay their way entirely to earn a spot in a program. But funding boosts have helped offset high out-of-pocket payments, making trips across longer distances more feasible.

Alternative breaks received $35,000 this year from the Student Association, a 25 percent increase from last year. But even with that money, which goes to the Alternative Breaks program as a whole, individual groups still have to fundraise for each trip’s unique costs.

SA finance committee chair Ben Pryde said funding for the organization grew because of its popularity.

“People get a lot out of these trips, you don’t hear people say anything bad about these trips,” Pryde said.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported the name of the typhoon that devastated the Philippines last year. It was Typhoon Haiyan, not Tycoon Haiyan. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that the group of students would work with the Global Relief Foundation. The students will work with Global Peace Youth Corps. Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported the name of Regina del Carmen’s student organization. It is the Philippine Cultural Society, not the Philippine Culture Society. Lastly, the photo caption incorrectly stated that Chris Evans pitched the idea for a trip to the Philippines. He did not propose the idea, but rather hopes to be one of the leaders on the trip. We regret these errors.

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