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- Mercy in Action
Alternative Spring Break (ASB) took place in Baltimore, MD, where students partnered with orgnization in the Mercy tradition to engage in service activities. Throughout the week, ASB participants worked with three organizations: Gallagher Services, Saint Vincent's Villa, and Marian House.
Gallagher Services is an organization that helps support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their goal is to help these individuals become as independent as possible. At Gallagher Services, the group took on the project of weeding a greenhouse after it had become overgrown form the start of the pandemic. The greenhouse serves a s symbol of independence for the members of Gallagher Services.
Saint Vincent's Villa is a residentail facility for children who have experienced trauma in their life or have mental health concerns. At Saint Vincent's Villa, they helped the maintenance staff clean a recreational gym facility for the residents. Something as small as cleaning the gym helped to improve the lives of the children living there.
Their last stop for service was Marian House. Marian House is an organization that works with previously incarcerated women and provides them with stable housing, career counseling, and other supportive services. At Marian House, the group cleaned out a storage room and made decorations for a St. Patty's day party the facility was hosting.
When asked how to describe the ASB experience, Director of Campus Ministry Jeff Wallace quoted a song by Brett Dennen and Matt Nathanson.
Don't succumb to the junk life
Junk friends, junk food, junk lovе, junk information
Don't succumb to the junk life
Hold yourself to the higher vibration
Essentially, individuals should hold themselves to a higher power and live in a world where they don't succomb to society's expectations.
Each night, the ASB group members took time to reflect on what they did during the day. Reflection took place in many forms, such as journeling or group sharing. During their reflection period, each person would share their feelings on the service, their personal experiences, and their hopes for the next day. Jeff Wallace said, "I was happy and proud of how willing the students were to be open with each other."
During the times they weren't engaging in service, ASB participants toured several museums in Baltimore including the Maryland Center for Culture and History and the Maryland Center for African American Culture. Each place they visited had an intentional purpose. It was designed to make students learn about the same things through a different lens. The group also had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. for the day, where they spoke to representatives from two organizations: Catholid Relief Services and the Society of Jesus. The representatives spoke of their advocacy work and how service can be performaned in a vairety of ways.
First-year Public Health major Justin Harttranft is one of the students who participated in ASB. Justin expressed that the trip offered more than just service. It also offered the group the opportunity to meet and bond with new individuals, be out of their comfort zones, and share things they might nothave if they didn't attend.
"Every day is a blank page waiting to be written," Justin said.
The trip offered much uncertainty because, although there was a written agenda, there was no knowledge of who they would encounter or how the days would go. "We were told that our service was meant to plant seed of Mercy. We may not see them grow, but we laid the foundation, and that's what matters most," said Justin.
The trip offered much uncertainty because, althought here was a written agenda, there was no knowledge of who they would encounter or how the days would go. "We were told that our service was meant to plant seeds of Mercy. We may not see them grow, but we laid the foundation, and that's what matters most," said Justin.
Campus Ministry is holding another Altnerative Break experience in May, where another group of students will be traveling to Vermont.