Alternative Spring Break in Latin America

Try something different this year with an Alternative Spring Break. While your classmates are engaging in the same ol’ actions of the season, spend your break adding new stamps to your passport, making lifelong connections with people from all over the world, and doing your part in making the world a better place.

Volunteering abroad during Spring Break allows students to make an impact in some of the most neglected communities. Whether you get involved with a construction project which adds a much-needed facility to a healthcare center, or spend your time helping to sustain the lungs of the Earth we call the Amazon Rainforest, you will end your time having gained practical skills, realizing the gift of giving, and establishing unique bonds that bridge cultural gaps.

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Not only does this unique experience help you to develop in your personal life, but your professional and academic life, as well. Choosing to forgo the usual Spring Break, is a great way to set yourself apart from others on college and employment applications. Alternative Spring Breaks make for a story you can share with more than your closest friends and offers you the opportunity to share those experiences on interviews. In addition, you gain real world skills employers are always seeking in their candidates including Spanish language skills, teamwork, and problem solving.

While the focus of an alternative Spring Break will be on the community you’re helping; those who work hard deserve to play hard, too. Take advantage of being in a new country and choose to add an adventure week to your program! Explore the most famous sites in Costa Rica, Peru, or Guatemala, try your hand at ziplining or ATVing, and spend some time lounging around a beautiful beach. Who says you’re going to miss out on the fun? Alternative Spring Breaks provide it all! And having met new friends from different countries, you’ll always have a local contact to show you around town no matter where you choose to travel in the future.

But, don’t take it from us. Below you can read a real testimony from Kristen, an Alternative Spring Breaker and her take on how the experience changed her perspective forever.

How an Alternative Spring Break Changed My Life

“Last year during spring break, I had the privilege of working at an orphanage in Guatemala-on my birthday! But before we get into that, I want to tell you the whole story and how the experience made me who I am today. It all started one Sunday when I was volunteering at the nursery in my church, and I was comforting a crying two-year old who missed her mom. I got to thinking that maybe there was a bigger way I could serve, by helping other children in need. I told my mom this idea and she loved it, so we contacted orphanages all around the world. But one orphanage stood out in particular. It was in Guatemala and they needed help with child-care. It was perfect for us! So on April 7th our family boarded a plane to Antigua, Guatemala.

As soon as we got to Antigua I could easily see how the country was divided between rich and poor. Walking down the streets you would see gorgeous houses, then right next door you would see little shacks. One of the things I loved most about the trip was how we got to live the life of a local.

Kristen-Russack-Alternative-Spring-Break

Every morning we woke up at 6:30 am and walked a mile to get to a chicken bus. A chicken bus is the public transportation in Antigua. It’s really a school bus, but they decorate it and paint it different colors. It’s called a chicken bus because they would pack people into the bus like chickens! Normally there are 4 people per seat but one day it was really crowded and we fit me, my mom, a husband and wife and their 4 kids all on one seat. We each had a random stranger’s child on our laps!

The first day we got to the orphanage, the nannies took us into the nursery where the two-year olds were, and as soon as they saw us they all jumped into our arms so we could hold them. I never felt so needed before in my life. The kids started calling us “Momma” and we would have to correct them and say “Titi” which means Aunt. Although I couldn’t speak Spanish, I never felt a language barrier between us and the kids.

Spring Break in Guatemala

It pained me to see how their shoes were four sizes too big and kept falling off their feet; and how all their clothes were dirty and worn and they would wear the same outfits every day. But what hurt me the most was when the nannies told us that the Guatemalan government has a law saying the kids couldn’t be adopted. This means that all the children have to stay in the orphanage until they are 18.

My favorite child at the orphanage was a 2-year old girl who had a birth disability–one of her legs was shorter than the other. But she was so strong! She happily played games with all the other children her age. She never let her disability stop her.

Ever since my alternative spring break in Guatemala, I have a new thankfulness for what I have, for my parents, and all that they do for me.” -Kristen Russack