Two groups of students from the University of Illinois Springfield are spending their spring break helping to rebuild Puerto Rico and Florida, following Hurricanes Maria and Michael, as part of an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip.
A group of 14 students and two staff members are volunteering in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, while 9 students and two staff members are working near Panama City Beach, Florida. Both groups left campus in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 9 and will return late in the evening on Saturday, March 16.
The two groups are working in partnership with Community Collaborations International (CCI). The students are helping with eco-restoration efforts, building renewable and sustainable homes and volunteering with early childhood education programs.
“After seeing the impact of last year’s trip to Texas, helping with disaster relief from Hurricane Harvey, we knew we wanted to continue with relief efforts,” said Madison Reuss, a UIS senior from Nashville, Illinois who is president of Alternative Spring Break Student Organization. “In the beginning, we thought we would only be doing a trip to Puerto Rico, but after high demand from many people wanting to get involved with ASB, we created a second trip that also would focus on disaster relief. Taking on this task and planning two trips was no easy feat, but in the end we knew it would be worth it.”
This trip marks the 11th anniversary of Alternative Spring Break at UIS. Students first traveled to South Dakota in 2008 to help Habitat for Humanity with a building project. Since then, they’ve traveled to the Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas helping with disaster relief, eco-restoration efforts and early childhood education programs. Students have also helped to feed the homeless at soup kitchens in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
“I am excited about Alternative Spring Break this year because we were able to plan two trips and take on an international project, two things ASB has never done before,” said Ben Paoletti, a UIS sophomore from Batavia, Illinois who is vice president of Alternative Spring Break Student Organization. “The opportunity for ASB to help others has grown exponentially in 2019 and I can't wait to see our impact on the people and communities we are going to serve. I would also like to take this time to recognize all our supporters and donors because without them this trip would not be possible.”
For more information on Alternative Spring Break, contact Jill Hawkins, Alternative Spring Break advisor and director of the UIS Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center, at 217/206-8635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.