Like many other students come Reading Week, Aaron Drake hopped a plane to an exotic locale. But the first year dramatic arts and education student didn’t kick back and relax when he arrived.
Drake was one of several Brock students who travelled to El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity to build sidewalks and tamp dirt floors in houses. The experience gave him new perspective, he said.
“By encouraging myself to continue broadening my understanding of community, I have learned that a world where everyone has a decent home is possible,” Drake said. “It’s about a hand-up, not a hand-out, and when we move beyond the barriers that hold us back, we will find those waiting with open arms.”
The excursion was part of Student Life and Community Experience’s fifth annual Alternative Reading Week program. This year, 110 Brock staff and students gave up the opportunity to catch up on sleep or studying to volunteer locally or abroad.
Students also joined Habitat for Humanitiy in South Carolina, where they built a single-story home. Others travelled to Dominican Republic to teach English and lead children’s activities in partnership with Outreach360.
At home, participants volunteered with Start Me Up Niagara, Lincoln County Humane Society, Heartland Forest, Job Gym/John Howard Society, and the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara.
Students were challenged to learn new skills while bettering their community and the lives of others. By the end of the week, staff and students logged 4,100 volunteer hours.
Jamieson Carr, who joined Drake in El Salvador, would do it all again, if given the opportunity.
“It’s an incredible experience where you get to witness the impact you can have while serving others,” the first-year accounting student said.
“Travelling with Brock was an incredible experience,” added kinesiology student Haley Gourley, who went to South Carolina. “I met some amazing people that I never would have gotten the chance to meet otherwise, challenging myself in learning new skills. It was a journey of a lifetime. If you like fried chicken, you’ll love this opportunity even more.”
Amber Scholtens, a Student Life staff member, led the South Carolina trip. She marvelled at the work Brock students put into the build.
“Everyone worked hard, with such a positive, genuine attitude and willingness to learn. It was truly an incredible display of what the University is all about and what it means to be a Badger,” Scholtens said. “Witnessing the impact we had on the community and the impact the overall experience had on everyone was amazing.”
To learn more about students’ experiences during Alternative Reading Week, bring your lunch and join the Service-Learning lunch conversation on Thursday, March 19 from noon to 1 p.m. in TH253.