Studentsí Spring Break A Time for Service

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Spring Break 2000 will see Boston College students building homes in Appalachia, working with religious missionaries among the poor in the Caribbean, and driving thousands of miles to Mississippi to lend a hand at the nationís oldest black parochial school.

More than 600 students have volunteered to participate in service trips planned by the student-run Appalachia Volunteers, the University Chaplaincy and the Lynch School of Education over the mid-semester break week that begins this weekend.

"Students in these programs discover something about their capacity to respond to the needs of others," said Vice President for Mission and Ministry Joseph A. Appleyard, SJ. "Helping people has been one of the Jesuit principles from the beginning: It is a way of deepening our sense of common humanity and our relationship to God."

Four-hundred-ninety-four Appalachia Volunteers will work on community-building projects in 23 different locations in Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Twenty volunteers from LSOE will make a 4,000-mile round trip to Natchez, Miss., to deliver aid to the Holy Family Catholic School, the nationís oldest African-American parochial school, which has been in danger of closing for lack of funds.

Several service programs are being sponsored by the University Chaplaincy. The Ignacio Volunteers Program will take 15 students to Kingston, Jamaica, to work among the sick and the poor, while another 15 will travel to Nicaragua under an independent immersion program to live and work among the poor in Managua and outlying rural areas.

The Give Me a Break program led by Chaplain Sister Joan Mahoney, CND, will bring 26 volunteers to Indian reservations and other locales in the United States and Canada to perform charitable work with the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Ten students will join Jesuit Community Rector Francis Herrmann, SJ, on a service trip to Haiti, where they will work with the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by the late Mother Teresa, at an orphanage and hospice in Port-au-Prince and at a hospital in the back country.

Closer to home, 25 or more students in the Urban Immersion Program will volunteer in Boston food banks and day shelters.

Organizers of the oldest and largest of the service trip programs, the Appalachia Volunteers, call theirs "the ëotherí spring break." Students are gone for 10 days, hammering nails and sleeping on floors in small towns like New Road and Catís Bridge, Va., experiencing life at far remove from the resorts of Cancun or Fort Lauderdale.

The program is entirely run and funded by the students themselves. Volunteers have raised close to $150,000 for the Appalachian trip by knocking on doors, speaking from the pulpits of their churches at home, and staging meal-card "point drives" on campus. The students will drive themselves in rented vans to their destinations across the country.

Bryan Head í00, one of six student coordinators, will be making his fourth trip to the Appalachian town of Alderson, W. Va., to work with local schoolchildren and help on building projects.

"The people treat you like family," he said. "They appreciate everything youíve done. What has been most valuable to me is realizing peopleís circumstances are very similar, wherever theyíre from."

Fr. Herrmann is reprising a Haitian service trip he once led for students at the Law School, where he is a professor. This time, undergraduates will join him in working with the Missionaries of Charity among the sick and dying in one of the hemisphereís most impoverished nations.

The trip is an eye-opener for student volunteers, said Fr. Herrmann. "They see the strength and beauty of people in the midst of great hardship," he said.

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