My Alternative Break Experience!

If you are new to my blog hello! My name is Karla and I am a sophomore at Central Michigan University! I post lifestyle and college-related posts and would love if you would subscribe to this blog to keep up with me and of course follow all my social media listed below! Follow my blog Instagram here!

So if you guys follow me on Instagram then you would know that this spring break I participated in something called an Alternative Break. My college, Central Michigan University, sends out over ten groups each break to focus on an issue and work to better that issue through service! My group’s issue was Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, something I am very passionate about.

My group consisted of 11 other people, two of those people being my site leaders which are basically “in charge” of us during the break. When I found out I had gotten the issue I had really wanted I was so happy, and what made it even better was the fact that we were going to Tallahassee, Florida.

After weekly late night meetings consisting of issue education and getting to know our group, we departed Saturday, March 2nd. The program provides two vans to each group, in our case there were 6 people placed in each van and we all had to take turns driving. The car ride there was really an opportunity to bond with people and get to know them, being in a van with 5 people for 19 hours allows for a lot of different conversations.

Once we got down to Florida we met our housing partner, in our case we were staying inside a recreation center at a church. I was nervous about not being able to sleep mainly because I tend to get homesick and miss sleeping in my bed whenever I stay the night somewhere. Not to mention I was going from a spacious full-size bed to a twin size air mattress.

The first night was hectic, tornados were coursing through the south and heading right for us, so we all piled into the church bathroom in order to stay safe. The way my site leaders handled the situation really made me feel safe despite all of the chaos going on outside. Thankfully the tornado ending up going around us so besides some very heavy rain and strong winds, everything was okay. That night was our first dinner together, we all just got to sit down and relax and really begin to talk to each other and form bonds which were something I had wanted to get out of going on an Alternative Break.

The next morning we had to be up bright and early to go on our first day of service. The first company we were working with was called Ability 1st, they worked with those who had disabilities and didn’t have the accessibility needed to do something we often take for granted, leave their house. That morning I volunteered to paint the back laundry room for this family, another girl came with me and we really bonded through working together in order to get the room painted to the best of our abilities. After we finished painting we were able to join the rest of our group outside to help with the bigger project, building a wheelchair ramp.

This was something a lot of us had never done before so it was a little intimidating. Our contractor was thankfully very understanding and patient and he worked with us and taught us how to use all the different power tools. During this time we had all begun to form very close bonds, we were able to have fun while still being serious about the task at hand which made it that much better and more fulfilling.

The following day we went to the second service project for our break which was volunteering at an all special education school. It was very eye-opening to work with the teachers and see the ways they run their classroom in response to their children’s needs. I requested to work with preschoolers, an age I had always loved to work with growing up. A majority of the kids in the class had no disability at all and were simply just attending preschool, but some of the children had disabilities of all types. Through working with these children, I was able to really grasp how to approach situations and what the best way to connect with children with these disabilities is.

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Wednesday came faster than we all could have thought and we returned to the same project we had worked on the first day. This time I was able to use the drill to screw in nails, use the power saw to cut wood to the correct lengths and we also did some yard work to help out the family. We didn’t end the day until around 6 at night and it was amazing to be able to look at all the progress we had made during the week and really reflect on the difference we were making in these peoples lives.

The next day followed the same as Tuesday, I returned to the same class I was in and helped out the teacher. This day was different in the sense that I really got to work and interact with the kids, one of them had a little crush on me and didn’t leave my side throughout the course of the day which was adorable. At the end of the day, I was sad, I didn’t want to leave the kids knowing I would probably never see them again. They all gave me big hugs and thanked me for coming and playing with them during the week and that in itself made what I was doing worth it.

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Friday we were tasked with building another wheelchair ramp but this time at a different location with different contractors. Now that we had known how to work all the power tools and the basics of ramp building the day seemed to go smoother. A moment I will never forget is when I was drilling screws into the boards and I looked up, an older man in a wheelchair was sitting at the door, watching all of us. Earlier that morning we had watched his family struggle to get him out of the house, having to use old wooden steep stairs in order to get them into the car. Knowing they had to do that every time he wanted to leave the house motivated all of us to get the ramp done to provide them with the accessibility they deserved. Although we didn’t get the entire thing done, we still got a good portion of it put together which was something we were all proud of ourselves for.

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Saturday was our excursion day, an opportunity to do what we wanted as a group, so naturally being in Florida, we decided to go to the beach. Our original plan was to go to Panama City Beach, but unfortunately, it had not yet been rebuilt from the devastating damaged caused by the recent Hurricanes. So instead we decided to travel to St. George Island where we spent the day on the beach, after that we went to a souvenir shop and ended the day with some much-needed ice cream. This day was amazing, it was fun to just relax and have fun with the group, I had bonded with so many people and it was fun to make memories with them.

Overall this trip had such a positive impact on me, although we had a few bumps in the road, it was still such an amazing and fulfilling trip. Every night following dinner we would have something called reflection, which really allowed for us to reflect upon the day we just had and discuss what types of things each of us was feeling. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the break and it was something I looked forward to each and every night. It made me realize just how privileged I am, to be able to go on a trip like this, to go to college, to be able-bodied, it was all things I took for granted. My site leaders really inspired me to get more involved, not only in my community but in the Alternative Breaks program. I want to be able to provide and facilitate the best possible breaks for each and every group so everyone can have an as amazing as an experience as I did on my break.

If you go to CMU, check out Alternative Breaks and sign up for one, it is an experience you will never forget and will provide a lifetime of memories and life lessons! Search your school’s website to see if they have an Alternative Breaks program, a lot of colleges do but students may not know about them! Get involved, make a difference in your community and most importantly don’t take what you have for granted, there is always someone in need and we are all privileged in our own ways.

A special shoutout to my group, thank you for being the best group I could have ever wanted! Thanks for putting up with me all week and contributing to some amazing memories!

Check out Central Michigans Alternative Breaks program here!

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I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Have any of you ever been on an Alternative Break?

Please feel free to comment any questions below about anything! Also if you have any situations you want advice on comment those as well! You can also dm me on instagram: liveitwithkarla or email me: lifewithkarla@gmail.com!

Keep up with me on my social media!

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