An Alternative to Cancun This Spring Break

Spring break is just around the corner; so what do you want to do? Drink? Party? Or maybe you would rather spend your vacation sleeping in a tent and painting houses?
Surprisingly, a handful of UC Irvine students are choosing to do these things over relaxing on a beach all break. Out of about 90 students, 27 were chosen to participate in the UCI Volunteer Center’s Alternative Spring Break program, which takes teams of students and involves them in community-based service projects. This year, the program is taking two separate trips: one to Saguaro National Park in Arizona and one to Waveland, Miss.
Angela Tseng, a third-year mathematics major, will be heading on the Arizona trip, which will be focusing on the restoration of plants and land in the park. Students will drive to Arizona in vans, stay at the Gilbert Ray Campground in Tuscon, Ariz. and will be hiking up to four to five miles roundtrip each day to help build new trails and remove cattle ranching fences. The park has recently acquired new land and many native animals have been caught in the fences.
As for the Mississippi trip, a 15-student team will fly to Mississippi and stay at the iCare Village in Waveland, which was built specifically for volunteers. Volunteers will be helping with the hurricane relief and reconstruction efforts, which include rebuilding houses, organizing donations, painting, preparing meals and more.
The intensive program gives students the chance to work closely with the people whom they are actually helping, giving them the chance to see different kinds of communities and the direct effects of their work.
‘We actually weren’t planning on going to Mississippi,’ said Charm Garlitos, a fourth-year political science major and Alternative Spring Break director. ‘But that obviously changed when Hurricane Katrina happened.’
The program saw a sudden surge of popularity this year, due in part to Volunteer Center Director Edgar Dormitorio’s recent vigorous advertising. When asked what the program is looking for when choosing volunteers, Garlitos explained, ‘We had a 300 percent increase in applicants this year. There are so many different dynamics to this type of work and there aren’t really very specific things that we’re looking for