More than two dozen Austin College students started their spring break on Friday, but not in the way most college students would. The group headed to Louisiana where they will spend the next week volunteering their time effort to build wheelchair ramps and assist communities stricken by flooding.
The volunteer project is part of the annual Alternative Spring Break program and will send 25 students, five board members and two sponsors to a community affected by flooding and storm damage from Hurricane Katrina. The category 5 storm struck Louisiana in August 2005 and resulted in more than $100 billion in damage. The group will stay at a church and work with other local service organizations.
“We’re going to be primarily building ramps and, to my knowledge, I think we’re also starting to work on another house,” AC Service Station board member and sophomore Alisa White said. “That probably includes painting and just the other things we need to do to make the house move-in ready.”
Fellow board member and AC junior Dev Amin said he was glad to get this year’s project off the ground and in motion.
“I’m pretty excited,” Amin said. “We were given the idea of developing our ASB at the beginning of the year. We get to pick the sites where we go and see what’s affordable in our range. As you grow along with the idea and make it work and plan it out, it becomes a part of you. And when you finally get to serve, you see all those ideas and hard work come together.”
Amin said while he understood than many college students use spring break to have a little fun and relax, he felt the project would be a great way to spend his time away from campus and make a difference.
“Giving up my spring break and giving my hours to a community that could use them and benefit from them brings joy to me,” Amin said. “I can give up a week of laziness and help provide them with some of what they really need.”
With a six hour car ride ahead of the Service Station team, Amin said the time spent traveling and working together would only bring its members closer together.
“When we go on ASB, we see each other every day and basically become a huge family,” Amin said. “You bond with and become friends with people that you might not otherwise see around campus. That has opened my eyes and has made me and my personality grow.”
AC junior and Service Station volunteer Yilu Zhang said this year’s ASB trip would be her third and that she was prepared to learn some new skills, much like she did the previous year when the organization headed to the Texas Hill Country.
“Last year, we went to San Marcos for flood relief,” she said. “I learned how to do roofing, which I had never done before. It’s definitely a new skill and I can’t imagine I would have learned that anywhere else. That’s really cool.”
Zhang said her participation in the ASB projects has always been rewarded with new connections and gratitude from those they assist. With only a week before classes resume, Zhang said she was looking forward to accomplishing as many projects as possible and making a change in someone’s life, no matter how big or small.
“I might not be changing the world, but I’m at least pushing the force to change the world ahead and into a better place,” Zhang said.