KNOXVILLE — As most college students prepare to hit the beach or travel to a relaxing destination for spring break, several groups of University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students will spend their days off doing volunteer work in communities across the country.
Forty-eight UT Knoxville students will head out Saturday morning, March 6, for the TeamVOLS annual Alternative Spring Break.
Students will gather at 7 a.m. in staff parking lot 30, located behind the Communications and University Extension Building, next to Andy Holt Tower. Vans will depart at 8 a.m. and will take teams of students, graduate assistants and staff members to their Alternative Spring Break locations: New Orleans and Charleston, S.C. The students will return on Thursday, March 11.
Students bound for New Orleans will help paint school classrooms in the city’s 9th Ward and spend time reading to students and repairing playgrounds. They will help landscape and clean up New Orleans’ City Park, which sustained $43 million in damage from Hurricane Katrina. Students also will lend a hand at the East Jefferson YMCA, Habitat for Humanity of New Orleans and Second Harvest Food Bank, performing clean up, office work, construction and restocking duties. While volunteering with Catholic Charities, the students will lead activities for senior citizens and mentally disabled individuals, as well as assisting in elementary classrooms.
In Charleston, students will assist in cleaning up historic sites such as Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. They will volunteer with the local Low Country Foodbank organization, and will spend time at the YMCA and the Ronald McDonald House, performing office work, cleaning and making repairs.
TeamVOLS isn’t the only organization on campus involved in outreach projects over spring break. Here’s a look at some of the other spring break service trips that are planned:
College of Nursing
Thirteen students and two faculty members from the College of Nursing are traveling to Peru as part of an international health care mission to provide primary care to some of Lima’s poorest residents. Under the leadership of Clinical Assistant Professor Karen Lasater, the trip will involve community assessments and home visits where the students and instructors will educate people on nutrition and dietary needs, prenatal care, proper sanitation, safe food and water storage practices and sanitary living conditions. They also will conduct physical exams.
The Cross organization is planning to take 120 students to Moultrie, Ga., to work with a variety of social service organizations, including The Boys and Girls Club, and help area residents with housing needs.
The Cross is a nondenominational campus ministry that is not exclusive but is focused on reaching the Greek community.
“We will work with repairing roofs, as well as building handicap ramps,” said Owen Ragland, executive director of The Cross. This is the 11th year that The Cross has taken a trip during fall and/or spring break. “Students will have the opportunity to grow spiritual as well as make a difference in someone’s life.”
Baptist Collegiate Ministry
The Baptist Collegiate Ministry has teamed up with Calvary Baptist Church to send 120 UT students to New York City to perform “random acts of kindness.” Some of the scheduled service work includes cleaning up a cemetery, working with a homeless shelter, teaching English to Asians and working with East African children.
Fellowship Free Evangelical Church
Twenty UT students from the Fellowship Free Evangelical Church are heading to Tijuana, Mexico, where they will work with children in an orphanage, teaching them English and proper hygiene practices. The UT students also will help with construction projects at the orphanage.
Christian Student Center
The Christian Student Center will be taking its annual spring break mission trip to Jacksonville, Texas, where 16 UT students will work with Elijah’s Retreat. The 50-acre retreat is a place for families with autistic children to vacation and relax. The nonprofit retreat has six cabins for families, a recreation center, a playground, a small water park and several farm animals. The UT students will spend the week building additional cabins and helping around the camp.
Tyson House Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry
Ten students from Tyson House Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry will travel to the Atlanta area with Vicar John Tirro to visit and learn from three service-oriented religious communities.
“At each site, we anticipate that we’ll join in and help out, but also that we’ll build relationships, receive what the community has to offer, and learn to grow more fully into our own identity as a prayer-centered, service-oriented community at the University of Tennessee,” Tirro said.
The group will meet with the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Ga.
They’ll also visit Mercy Community Church in Atlanta.
“This ministry is mostly made up of people living on the street, and they intentionally blur the lines of who is serving and who is being served,” Tirro said. “I hope we will learn here about ministry with, by and for people living without homes.”
The group also will visit Church of the Holy Comforter in Atlanta, Ga., an Episcopal church where about 60 percent of the members are living with mental illness.
“We’ll be staying at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, which has a strong emphasis on social justice,” Tirro said. “If the temperature drops below 29 degrees, we’ll be sleeping on the floor in the sanctuary, as this winter they began giving their beds to homeless people on cold nights.”
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