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Tuesday, March 28, 2023 — Houston, TX

ASB participants trade beach parties for volunteering

By Jocelyn Wright     3/13/08 7:00pm

While some students were spending their spring breaks at the beach or on the ski slopes, about 100 others decided to devote their time to volunteering with Alternative Spring Break, a program in which teams of college students in communities do short-term community service projects addressing issues such as racism, homelessness, poverty and the environment. This year, there were 10 ASB trips organized by students appointed to be site leaders and coordinated through the Community Involvement Center.All trips required that participants pay a $250 registration fee. The rest of the money for the trips was raised through individual fundraising by each student group.

Although most of the trips were able to finish all their fundraising before spring break, some trips, such as the one to Oaxaca, still have fundraising left to do. Site co-leader Sravya Ennamuri said the Oaxaca ASB group still had to raise between $3,000 to $4,000 to pay for their trip. Ennamuri, a Sid Richardson college sophomore, said the trip was particularly expensive because 16 people went, and they were going abroad to Mexico, which is more costly than most ASB trips within the United States. Ennamuri said new regulations issued by the City of Houston regarding selling food really affected her trip's fundraising because it limited some fundraising they had originally planned to do through bake sales.

Despite the fundraising difficulties, Ennamuri said her ASB trip was a lot of fun.

"Going on the trip has really shown us that all of the fundraising was worth it," Ennamuri said. "It was one of the best experiences I had, so we were ready to come back and finish the rest of the fundraising because we knew all of the fundraising [we had done so far] was worth it. The trip was just a great experience."

Enamuri's group taught women about nutrition in Spanish, made 10-foot murals to inform the population about health-related issues and helped out at a local clinic. Ennamuri said the villagers were very responsive to and enthusiastic with the volunteers.

"It was amazing because we communicated completely in Spanish and they were very, very responsive to what we had to say," Ennamuri said. "I know a lot of them got really enthusiastic with trying to take care of their health and making sure their kids would have the proper nutrition daily."

Wiess College senior Igor Gorlach, who was a site co-leader for the other trip to Mexico in San Miguel de Allende, said he also enjoyed working with members of the community. His group shadowed midwives to learn about different issues of reproductive health, helped out in clinics and listened to lectures by midwives and local politicians about health issues in the area. However, Gorlach said the trip was more than just work; they also played soccer, danced salsa, visited hot springs, ate authentic food and had a party with live Mexican music. Gorlach said although he did not speak any Spanish before the trip, he picked it up quickly when he was immersed in it over spring break.

"I probably had more fun on this trip than anyone who went on the beach with margaritas," Gorlach said. "It was definitely more fun than anything else I could have done."

Gorlach said this was his second time participating in ASB although it was his first time being a site leader. He said he learned a lot from both trips but that his favorite part was getting to know his fellow Rice students in these new circumstances.

Bonding in unconventional situations also happened at the ASB trip to Washington, D.C. Meg Goswami, a site leader for the Rice Women's Center trip to Washington, D.C., said her favorite part of her ASB trip was watching the group bond and get comfortable working with each other on the first day.

"It felt really great to watch everyone become friends with each other," Goswami, a Baker College junior, said. "At first it was kind of awkward because it was 14 people who didn't know each other, but after the first day people got really comfortable working at the women's shelter. It was just a really good bonding experience for all involved."

Goswami said volunteers on her trip did maintenance work and painted a mural in their dining room and interacted with the women.

"Basically we just involved ourselves with the day-to-day activities of the center and let them get to know how the place functions," Goswami said.

She said the trip was extremely rewarding once they arrived and everything fell into place, even though planning it was stressful at times.

"Figuring out the budget was probably my least favorite part, but it all worked out okay," Goswami said. "I want to be involved in the program again next year. This is the most fun spring break I've had in my memory, and I definitely want to be involved in the program again next year. I'd encourage everyone to do it as well.

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