High Point University students opted out of a relaxing week and, instead, chose an alternative – the HPU Alternative Fall Break Program. The program allows students to travel to different cities and countries to volunteer time and resources to help people in need. More than 20 students took the week to serve others and their impact will have a lasting effect on them and the people they touched.
Students have been taking these alternative trips for many years, allowing an opportunity for them to experience different cultures and serve the less fortunate. Oak Ridge United Methodist Church partnered with HPU to make two trips possible, one to Alabama and the other to Guatemala.
An elderly woman and her family whose home was damaged by tornadoes in April 2011 have a renovated house now thanks to 10 students who drove to Holt, Ala. In seven days, the students built two wheel chair ramps, repaired floors, put up new walls and paint, cleaned the yard and replaced windows. The family was extremely grateful for the work completed in just a week, but the students were also impacted.
“I think this trip was a prime example of what our world and its people are capable of,” says Erin Karpovich, sophomore human relations major who went to Alabama. “We have a handful of people who do not know each other, from different backgrounds and social circles, and we instinctively came together for the greater good. It is amazing what can be accomplished if we respect each other. After seeing how some people live their daily lives, I have a new sense of gratitude I hold towards my living situation and all we are truly blessed with.”
Next, fifteen students traveled to a small village in Guatemala called Chuisajcaba II. The group raised more than $20,000 for the trip and assisted more than 500 people by building 83 close-fire stoves and providing purified water and vitamins to every household. By building close-fire stoves, they replaced open fires in homes that cause respiratory problems, birth defects and a dangerous environment.
Dylan Robinson, senior political science major, was born in Guatemala and adopted by American parents at a young age. He has participated in this trip for three years, allowing him to be able to return to his birthplace and give back to people who need it most.
“I love that I get the chance to give back to the country where I came from,” says Robinson. “It definitely puts your life in a different perspective. As a student, it just makes me more aware of my community and helps me model the university’s value of service. I believe that you can learn a lot not just in the classroom but in the community that surrounds you.”
In addition to the Alternative Fall Break Program, Maggie Sturdevant, senior sociology major, went on a mission trip with her home church to Slidell, La. to help with hurricane relief. The group partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Loaves and Fishes Ministry, with whom they fed the homeless. Sturdevant is the president of APO, a service-based fraternity, and has been on many mission trips. She has a heart for service and giving up her break was a joy.
“This trip has given me even more appreciation for my home away from home here at HPU, as well as allowing me to become a better leader when it comes to volunteer work,” says Sturdevant. “It is always good to reignite my passion for volunteering, and that is what my work in Slidell did.”
“We value civic engagement, and this is just one opportunity that is made available to our students,” says Gail Tuttle, vice president for student life. “In the HPU community, we teach the value of generosity and giving, but to model it in the way of application and real life, this is what a holistic education is all about. Our students care deeply for those in need.”