by Ashley Hunter–
As winter break approaches many students are choosing to participate in alternative breaks. These alternative breaks are service trips, and they provide students a chance to give back during their time off. Service trips sponsored by VT Engage or led by Virginia Tech faculty can take students to a variety of locations all over the world where they can volunteer in local communities.
This winter, students have the opportunity to participate in a faculty-led program in Jordan or program in the Dominican Republic sponsored by VT Engage. The Jordan program is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and is based in Amman, where students will work with various organizations such as Souriyat Across Borders, Zakat International, and “This is My Life.” Souriyat Across Borders provides medical care, Zakat International provides education, and “This is My Life” aids displaced youth. Students can also serve in a local orphanage.
The Dominican Republic program is a VT Engage service immersion experience in which students will work with the Community Service Alliance (CSA) in Hato Mayor del Rey. The goal of projects with CSA is to improve the local standard of living.
“I think they’re pretty committed to working with a community partner and supporting the work that partner does in the Dominican Republic, as well as learning more about the social issues in the DR – so learning more about potential issues around poverty, or social justice issues, access to education, healthcare,” says Associate Director of Global Engagement Eliza Wethey on why students choose to spend their break serving in the Dominican Republic.
VT Engage also offers a service immersion experience in the summer. This program takes students to Peru where they will serve with ARCAmazon in Cusco, Lima, and Puerto Maldonado with conservation projects.
VT Engage chooses locations where service will be most impactful on the community, ensuring the work is meaningful and needed. “We focus on creating sustainable, long-term partnerships,” says Wethey. Virginia Tech has been involved with the organization in the Dominican Republic for nearly 10 years.
According to Wethey, students must submit an application and then go through an interview process and commit to five or six pre-trip meetings, and so students that participate are committed to the cause.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in service trips through faculty-led programs. Service-learning trips are offered on spring and summer breaks in addition to winter break, giving students the chance to serve throughout the year all over the world.