Reflections of an Alternative Spring Break Leader
By Jessica Lynch-Foust
This past March, I had the incredible opportunity of leading a group of students in a service trip to Las Marias, Puerto Rico.I’m a fourth year Human Services and International Affairs major and I’ve been involved with Alternative Spring Break for the past two years. My only regret is that I didn’t find about this experience sooner. After volunteering in a small village in the mountains of Ecuador my Middler year, I knew that I wanted to experience this again, and return as a leader and help foster the same growth and development for my peers that volunteering gave to me.
My co-Leader, Bola, and I acted as liaisons between the ASB office, our partner in Puerto Rico, Plenitud, and our student peers to make sure everything went off without a hitch for our week on the farm. We facilitated reflections each night, with topics ranging from food security in Boston to resilience at the face of global climate change and seemingly everything in between. And we had a ton of fun. From salsa dancing to planting trees with local school students to digging out produce beds in the terraces, I speak for my whole team when I say it’s an experience we’ll never forget.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m aware that volun-tourism can be fraught with issues. It can be downright harmful for local communities and it can perpetuate negatively impactful narratives of white saviorism. However, if pursued thoughtfully, from an asset-based perspective and with organizations that are ‘doing the work’ locally, it can be a really fantastic learning experience for participants and a helpful community development tool. Northeastern’s Center of Community Service does an outstanding job creating long-term partnerships with organizations around the country and internationally that exemplify best practices in the field. These partnerships prioritizes teaching student leaders and participants important skills in reflection and cultural sensitivity. I am proud to have been able to represent our program in both Ecuador and Puerto Rico and I have learned so much through these experiences.
As someone who plans to have a career in social impact, it has been an amazing opportunity to push myself to grow. I am to be able to encourage my peers to think about how they can incorporate social impact into their lives, regardless of their major or career path.