Alternative Break Program Seeks Weekend Trip Proposals

From: Public Affairs

Faculty and staff members who are interested in JMU's Alternative Break Program have a new opportunity to participate in the popular service trips, one that focuses on weekend journeys rather than weeklong ones.

Building on the award-winning program's alcohol- and drug-free Spring Break, Thanksgiving and May service trips, Alternative Weekend trips are a great way for faculty and staff who cannot commit to the longer trips to be a part of the rewarding opportunity, said Rich Harris, director of Community Service-Learning.

He welcomes proposals for weekend service trips from faculty and staff to help meet the high demand from students for such valuable and meaningful adventures. And Harris stands ready to help cosponsor weekend trips with assistance and advice gathered from years of service-learning experience.

"Weekend service trips open new avenues for faculty and staff to interact with and help develop wonderful JMU students focused on improving themselves and the community," Harris said. "The trips can bring new enthusiasm to a department, as well as the ABP group, as teams realize that each member is a teacher and a learner. And, in supporting JMU's mission of developing educated and enlightened citizens, faculty and staff members can also learn more about the community with the support of CS-L."

One Alternative Weekend trip called the Global Jubilee Village is already in the works. On Friday, Oct. 8, Dr. Michael Deaton, a professor of integrated science and technology, along with his wife, JoEtta Deaton, and social work associate professors BJ Bryson and Cindy Hunter will travel with 15 JMU students to Ezekiel's Place in the panhandle of West Virginia.

For the entire weekend, each student is assigned to live as part of a "family" from one of seven developing nations (Philippines, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel and Appalachia). By living with limited food, primitive housing and simulated crisis scenarios created by native facilitators, students learn about poverty, sustainability and other social justice crises. As a result, they come to view these issues in a new light and are motivated to do something about them.

"The Global Jubilee Village's purpose is to encourage students to pursue opportunities for ongoing involvement and service," Deaton said. The professor, who has led JMU students to Ezekiel's Place four times previously, described the journey as "a great way to interact with students and a great platform that leads to thoughtful community service once they return to campus."

Later in October 12 students and learning partner Dr. Fletcher Linder, director of interdisciplinary liberal studies and an associate professor of anthropology, will head to Verona to rehabilitate an older house to benefit a senior citizen. Organized as the first Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence Alternative Break, the Oct. 23-24 weekend will give students "a chance to learn more about the concerns within their own backyard," said Diana Gates, one of two student trip leaders. The team will coordinate its work with the Harrisonburg office of Rebuilding Together, a community partner agency.

For more information about proposing an Alternative Weekend service trip, contact Harris at harrisra@jmu.edu or 568-3463.

The Community Service-Learning website at http://www.jmu.edu/csl/ contains information about JMU's Alternative Break Program, while the Service website at http://www.jmu.edu/service/ shows JMU students and learning partners in action.

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Sept. 29, 2010