March 04, 2009

Students to spend spring break helping others

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Spring break is traditionally a time for college students to hit the beaches or head home for rest and relaxation. Not so for dozens of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students.

They’re heading south for the break, but they’ll spend their alternative spring break helping others. They will toil in the sun building homes and fixing up playgrounds and schools. They’ll be working with children, helping teachers, and much more.

“It is awesome to see so many of our students participate in Alternative Spring Break,” said Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of Student Development at SIUC. “Our students demonstrate their understanding of being involved in civic life and in social responsibility. I know a number of the students through their participation in Saluki Volunteer Corps and AmeriCorps and I have seen their passion to serve and make a difference. I wish them the best and look forward to them returning and sharing their experiences with us.”

Three groups of SIUC students are participating in charity work, actually paying their own way to give their much-needed and appreciated help during the March 7-15 break. Expenses range up into the hundreds of dollars. Students sponsored fundraisers, secured donations, and chipped in their own pennies and dollars to cover their costs.

In conjunction with the Newman Catholic Student Center, three student groups are participating in the 2009 Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge program. About 10 students will be in Miami, while a group of 16 serves in Alexandria, La. The third and largest group, about 22 members strong, is going to West Point, Miss. Each group will work in those communities, helping build houses for deserving families who otherwise couldn’t likely afford them.

The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a registered student organization on campus and branch of a national organization, is taking a group of 17 students led by faculty adviser Patrick Langan to Costanza in the Dominican Republic. Working with Food for the Hungry, the SIUC students plan to build three houses. They’ll also sponsor children’s activities, teach Bible school and help out in the community.

“I think this shows a sense of global responsibility,” Langan said. “Our students are realizing we live in a very wealthy country. This trip exposes them to poverty, to a third world country. It helps them grow in their generosity and willingness to serve others.”

A group of about a dozen from Educ8kdz, also a registered student organization at SIUC, will be going to New Orleans over the spring break, too. There they’ll help in ongoing efforts to restore the hurricane-ravaged area. They’ll rebuild playground equipment and classrooms, perform yard work at schools, conduct workshops and demonstrate age-appropriate learning activities for children. This is the second year the group, an early childhood education student organization in the College of Education and Human Services, has assisted in child care centers and elementary schools in Louisiana.

“The Saluki spirit of giving is alive!” Rundblad said.