Students make impacts during Spring Break

By Thao Nguyen ’15

Holding 13 cents in her hands, Naomi Saito had no hope of finding enough money to buy a $4 breakfast. There was nothing in the Cornell sophomore’s stomach, because at dinner the previous night she had only one bowl of rice, which she shared with eight other people. A woman promised to give her one dollar if she poured water on her friend, and she could not resist the idea easily…

Cornell students assisted with construction and other projects on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Cornell students assisted with construction and other projects during Alternative Spring Break on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Sound strange? This was the hunger simulation game that Saito and 11 other Cornell students played on their Alternative Spring Break trip to Elm Mott, Texas. Besides spending one week working on a sustainable farm, the students also participated in many educational activities to learn about the effects of hunger in developing countries.

Every year since 2004 Cornell has sent students on one-week service trips during spring break. This year’s Alternative Spring Break project was the largest yet, with 92 students traveling to seven locations around the U.S.

One group went to New Jersey to assist with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, while another headed for the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to provide services to the local Native American community. Other projects focused on urban at-risk youth in Chicago; HIV/AIDS outreach in Austin, Texas; civil rights advocacy in Selma, Ala.; and a variety of poverty relief projects in Atlanta.

Sophomore Allison Rott worked at a transitional housing project for people with HIV and AIDS in Chicago.

“The people there were so resilient, despite many horrible things they went through,” she said. “The more I talked to them, the more I realized how privileged I was.”

“I have learned that we can do so much in just a few hours, and that we do have the means to solve the world’s problems,” said sophomore Kim Boche. “The trip [to Atlanta] helped solidify why I want to work for non-profit organizations in the future.”

“I learned that some people do not even have the option to live an honest life,” said Saito, reflecting on her experience in Texas. “Knowing that we are fortunate to have education, clothes, food, and even clear water makes me feel responsible for creating changes.”

ASB 2013
Alternative Spring Break participants worked with pre-school children in Chicago (left) and helped package unused medical supplies in Atlanta to send to developing countries (right).