On Friday, March 9, 169 Stonehill students will depart for destinations around the globe as Spring Break 2012 gets underway. These students won't be headed to Cancun, the Bahamas and other top spring break destinations for fun in the sun. Instead, they will use their vacation to help make a difference in impoverished or disaster stricken areas.
The trips are an annual part of Stonehill's service outreach efforts. Called the H.O.P.E. Alternative Spring Break Program, the trips give students a new sense of community. H.O.P.E. is an acronym that stands for the four 'tenets' of the program: Honoring our neighbor, Organizing for justice, Practicing peace , and Encountering God.
This year's sites include Coachella Valley, California; La Romana, Dominican Republic; Guaiacum, Honduras; New Orleans; Chacraseca, Nicaragua; Bronx, New York; Peru; Tennessee; West Virginia; Camden, New Jersey; and for the first time, Andre House in Phoenix, Arizona.
Not just a week-long trip, the students who wish to participate in the program go through a five-month process in which they form community with each other; learn about the culture, history and issues of social justice in their receiving communities; have an opportunity to experience this first-hand over Spring Break; and continue to pursue justice after their return.
About This Year's Sites:
New Orleans- 28 Students
Stonehill has performed disaster relief work over the past several years in the Gulf Coast region. Stonehill students have been able to make a positive impact in disaster stricken areas that have left thousands in desperate need for help. This year's H.O.P.E. trip will partner with Habitat for Humanity - St. Tammany Parish on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain.
Tennessee- 18 Students
H.O.P.E. students who travel to Tennessee stay at the Sunset Gap Community Center in Cosby. The service work at Sunset Gap focuses on the surrounding community. The community center sends volunteers out into the community wherever there is need. The work is mostly physical labor, building and landscaping, but can change from year to year. Last year's task was to repair a local family's trailer by rebuilding the roof and deck, and painting the exterior.
New York- 10 Students
In New York City, the H.O.P.E group works with the Mercy Center in the South Bronx. There, students work with the Center's after school program to provide enrichment activities for grade school-aged children and with some of the center's sister sites around the community.
California- 18 Students
H.O.P.E. California works with the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC). CVHC is a non-profit housing development corporation dedicated to helping low and very low-income families improve their living conditions through advocacy, research, construction, and operation of housing and community development projects. The H.O.P.E. group works primarily on building houses for CVHC families throughout the week.
West Virginia- 13 Students
Students will serve in rural West Virginia in conjunction with various service sites; participating in housing rehabilitation, fundraising activities, flood clean up, soup kitchens, and much more. The trip will include a unique and in-depth view into the environmental issues affecting communities there, such as mountaintop removal coal mining and natural gas extraction.
Andre House in Phoenix, AZ- 8 Students
For the first time, H.O.P.E. will offer a trip to Andre House in Phoenix, a ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross. A combination of the charisms of Holy Cross with elements of the Catholic Worker movement, Andre House offers meals, showers, locker space, a clothes ‘free store' and other hospitality services to clients; as well as Daily Mass in the parking lot.
Camden, NJ- 6 Students
For the first time last year, H.O.P.E. sent a group to the Romero Center in Camden, NJ. The Romero Center hosts high school, college, and parish groups from around the country for urban service immersions that last for one to seven days. The Center arranges different service opportunities for each day; including homeless day shelters, AIDS hospices, nursing homes, community organizing, and food banks.
Dominican Republic- 23 Students
Students traveling to the Dominican Republic stay in La Romana, where they work at Hogar Del Niño, a center that seeks to offer necessary services to children in need, from newborns to 17 years in age. This program provides children with daily care, educational opportunities, medical assistance and vocational training. Past years' H.O.P.E. groups have spent their time working on several projects including painting a playground, creating a mural for the Doctor's office, and painting the nursery room.
Honduras- 13 Students
In Honduras, the H.O.P.E. group stays in the small town of Guaimaca and lives in the mission house for the city's church. While there, H.O.P.E. group members help the church and surrounding communities with what is needed at the time. Last year H.O.P.E. students assisted the mission's farm with their composting project and worked for the local girls' boarding school run by nuns from the mission. Also, the group was lucky enough to hike through the Honduran mountainside, see the productions of a local coffee farm, and challenge the local youth group to a game of soccer.
Nicaragua- 14 Students
Students travel through The Friends of Students for 60,000, started by Michael Cipoletti '99, the founder of the H.O.P.E. alternative spring break program when he was a student at Stonehill. Last year, students spent the week building a house, and also had the opportunity to interact with children at local schools and to learn about sustainability efforts at local farms. Students had the chance to climb a volcano, and to experience local culture through a variety of activities.
Peru- 18 Students
H.O.P.E. Peru provides participants with the opportunity to become fully immersed in a unique culture and community through rewarding work at Fe y Alegría, a local school, as well as at Yancana Huasay, a rehabilitation center and school that caters primarily to children with mental and physical disabilities. Participants are given the opportunity to not only make a difference through physical labor, but to also learn and grow through interactions with children at both the school and Yancana Huasay. The experience as a whole is largely focused on gaining an understanding of the immense poverty and social justice issues in Peru. Close relationships developed with locals also provides participants with the opportunity to see past the poverty and be exposed to the generosity, compassion and love that is inherent within the community of Canto Grande.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.