Bliss Gatenby and Carson Welychka can sum up their experience in Sumter, S.C., in one word: Life-changing.
Joined by a group of Brock students and staff, the pair made the trip to the U.S. in February 2016 to build a house with Habitat for Humanity as part of Alternative Reading Week (ARW).
The annual service-learning initiative is offered through the Student Life and Community Experience department.
“It was an incredibly eye-opening experience,” said Gatenby, who will be a student leader during this year’s trip to Sumter.
“People who are our neighbours are living without everyday necessities such as heat, hydro and water, things that we don’t even think twice about.”
Welychka, who was in her first year of Business Communication when she last participated in ARW, is pushing herself outside of her comfort zone by co-leading the reading week trip to Peru this year.
“My experience in South Carolina is exactly what motivated me to become a leader this time around,” she said.
“There’s always something to learn and understand when you broaden your perspective through opportunities like this.”
Brock students and staff will join Solidarity Experiences Abroad from Feb. 16 to 26 to participate in a medical mission and educational programming for youth in Lima and Cuzco, Peru.
The group travelling to South Carolina will depart Feb. 18 and return on Feb. 26.
As both groups prepare to spend their week off performing physical labour, Gatenby and Welychka stressed it’s time well spent.
“Everyone thinks it’s like giving up their reading week, but it’s really about putting it to good use,” said Welychka.
“There’s so much value in giving back. It not only benefits you as a leader, but it also strengthens your ties to your own community,” said Gatenby.
“An experience like this is extremely motivating when it comes to striving for change locally.”
Spots are still open for the South Carolina trip. Students, staff and alumni are encouraged to participate. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 8, or until all spots are filled. Visit ExperienceBU to apply.