During the week of March 10th, more than 70 members of the Emmanuel community continued the College's tradition of participating in Alternative Spring Break (ASB), sending groups of students and staff to service sites around the city of Boston, as well as in Phoenix, Ariz., and New Orleans, La.
ASB is a weeklong, faith-based service trip sponsored by the Office of Mission + Ministry that takes place during the College's traditional spring break. Students and staff travel together, serve the community, live in a communal setting and spend their evenings in prayer and reflection. This year, participants confronted issues of hunger, homelessness, extreme poverty, food justice and environmental concerns, and continued to help a city rebuild following one of the nation's worst natural disasters.
For the first time, the Boston ASB group spent the week at the College's new Notre Dame Campus in the Fort Hill neighborhood of Roxbury, Mass. Twenty students and two staff members focused on food justice, which seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly.
The team served at various locations around Boston including Pine Street Inn, Community Servings, the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Franciscan Food Center at St. Anthony Shrine. They also learned about Boston's ReVision Urban Farm, an organization that provides information about healthy eating and sustainable farming, as well as free or affordable produce to the residents of ReVision Family Home in Dorchester and to the surrounding community.
Patti Wilder, the course coordinator for Share Our Strength's "Cooking Matters" program gave the students an educational workshop on food security and hunger as well as instruction for how to shop and eat healthy on a budget. Later in the week, students had to lead "Cooking Matters" tours in local grocery stores and to work in teams to shop and prepare a healthy dinner on a budget.
Emmanuel faculty were also involved in educational presentations both on and off the Notre Dame Campus. Dean of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History William Leonard led the group on a walking tour of downtown Boston and spoke on the history of Roxbury. Assistant Professor of Political Science Adam Silver facilitated a group discussion following a viewing of A Place at the Table, a documentary examining the issue of hunger in the United States.
"The presentation by Professor Adam Silver went a long way in helping the group to understand food insecurity and to set the stage for the work we were about to do in the community," said Alison Gilbert '16. "Moving beyond the stereotype of a hungry person being a homeless person was a very important concept as well. We learned that hunger comes in many forms and many people with homes and jobs experience hunger on a day-to-day basis."
Other activities included working with local youth from Sociedad Latina on school lunches and healthy eating as well as developing workshops for students at OLPH Mission Grammar School in Roxbury Crossing.
"Serving my own city, home away from home, was extraordinary," said Adam Julien '15, who elected to serve in Boston rather than his hometown of New Orleans. "I learned so much about the surrounding neighborhoods and the city itself. There were greenhouses right in the center of a Roxbury suburb, which I would have never noticed if I did not do this trip. I now have new places to visit and explore on my down time."
For the 12th-consecutive year, the Phoenix group served at Andre House, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Priests and Brothers of Holy Cross from the University of Notre Dame that serves the poor and homeless. The team worked directly with the Andre House staff doing office work, laundry, clothes sorting and distribution, and food preparation and service.
"The main focus on the trip was service to the homeless population in Phoenix, Arizona," said Sarah Brethauer, Assistant Director of Residence Life and Resident Director of Loretto Hall and CityView. "Working right alongside students showed me once again that the students here at Emmanuel have a commitment to service of others and furthering their spiritual growth. The students on this trip showed that they are not afraid to get dirty and work if it helps just one person have a better day or future.
"Being able to travel with students and other staff members from Emmanuel was a wonderful experience. Having time to spend with everyone off campus and away from the normal everyday tasks was a great way to break down barriers and get to know them."
"I always come back from Phoenix with my eyes opened and a much greater awareness of poverty and homelessness," said Assistant Director of Admissions Jon Ahern '11, who traveled to Arizona all four years as an Emmanuel student. "The service itself can be challenging at times but I think the students and staff leaders really came together as a team to make a positive impact. We also reflected as a group each night to help digest the experiences we were having each day. I think the reflections really helped the bonding process.
"What I love about the ASB program is that it brings all different members from the Emmanuel community together under the goal of community service. Working in Admissions, I'm very focused on bringing future students onto campus, but I don't always get to interact with current students or staff members from different departments."
The crew of 18 staff and students that traveled to New Orleans continued their work with the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization that helps to rebuild the homes of senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with children affected by Hurricane Katrina who can't afford to have their homes rebuilt by contractors. Since the organization was founded in 2006, more than 41,000 volunteers have helped to rebuild 445 homes in St. Bernard Parish.
"[The trip] was eye-opening and transformative in so many ways," said Rita Pratte '15, who traveled to New Orleans again this year, this time as a student leader. "It's honestly so difficult to put into words. The impact that the experience and the people I was with made on me will stay with me forever. The ASB experience is truly a blessing."
Check out Emmanuel's ASB Storify to view a collection of tweets and photos from students and staff.
ASB New Orleans: Breezy Mousley '15
While serving with the New Orleans ASB group, Breezy Mousley '15 captured nearly 400 images during the weeklong trip.
"Whenever I go on a trip I am not seen without my camera because I love capturing as many experiences as I can. A lot of people tell me that I should live in the moment of whatever is going on but for me, I take pride in the fact that I can do both. I love sharing my experiences through photography while at the same time soaking it all in. Since I am not the best with sharing my experiences and feelings through words, but more so through my photography, I take each picture with thought, care and purpose.
I am very passionate about community service and I've been on several service trips in the past, making Alternative Spring Break perfect for me. My mission for this trip was to help the people of New Orleans not only physically by restoring homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but also emotionally by talking and listening to their stories. There were 18 of us in total including our staff leaders and I had no idea that our group would become so close so fast. I barely knew anyone before ASB so it was amazing to learn about and connect with fellow students that I wouldn't normally encounter at Emmanuel without this trip. With that, I felt the extra need to share our ASB adventures and our Emmanuel spirit through photography. I love taking pictures of people, especially candids, because I am able to capture a person's true expression in a specific moment in time.
We all went to NOLA in hopes of helping others and came back to Emmanuel as a stronger, more appreciative, and closer group of individuals I can safely call my family."