Alternative Break Mission Experiences
Alternative Break Service - GMercyU Style
If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of others, we offer several extended service experiences. Our Alternative Break Missions provide a unique opportunity to join with other GMercyU students, faculty and staff members in service projects around the country and around the world.
Whether you’re looking to stay in the U.S. or travel abroad, you’re sure to find an opportunity to perform worthwhile community service, while learning about cultural and social issues facing your host community. It's an experience you'll never forget, and one that you'll want to repeat again and again throughout your time here.
2016 Alternative Spring Break Student Blogs - Get a firsthand look at students' experiences during 2016 Alternative Spring Break Mission Trips around the country and around the world.
As part of our Alternative Spring Break service program, the GMercyU Campus Ministry team offers service-immersion experiences during school breaks as part of a deep and lasting commitment to service. Students, faculty and staff who participate in these experiences have nothing but positive feedback to offer.
So, if you have a desire to:
- Be of service to others
- Learn more about economic poverty, diversity and social justice
- Live simply
- Grow in your spirituality
- Reflect on your experiences, individually and as a community
- Strengthen your leadership qualities and commitment to the future
Alternative Spring Break service sites are determined during the fall semester.
Applications will become availble in November, and are due January 18th, 2018. Applicants will be interviewed over the following two weeks. Once all students are placed, we begin an intensive month of planning and fundraising, with our Kickoff Meeting on Friday, January 26th, 2018.
Ways to Participate:
In addition to actively participating in these service experiences, you can make a monetary donations any time of year. We also hold some fundraisers in our local community:
- Breakfast at Applebee’s (Montgomeryville): Saturday, February 24th, 2018 from 8-10 a.m.
- BINGO: Date TBD
We always need BINGO prizes and raffle baskets as well as Finer Things prizes. Contact Christine Eberle, email@example.com or 215-641-5590 to make a contribution.
Cost to Participate:
Cost to students: $50 plus a commitment to work together on fundraising to cover the full cost of approximately $500/student.
Questions? Contact Lauren DuCharme at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-641-5592.
A Look Back: ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK 2017
Our Alternative Spring Break Mission Trip students traveled to five different locations around the country for a week of service and simple living.
SAN CARLOS, ARIZONA
On the San Carlos Apache Reservation, our students worked at Rice Elementary School. Participating in myriad activities, GMercyU students made a difference in the lives of students and others by:
- Teaching classroom lessons on how to communicate
- Cleaning and organizing the curriculum room
- Helping the student set daily behavioral goals.
- Organizing and distributing food donations into backpacks for each child to be distributed after lunch on Friday for the kids to take home with them for their Spring Break the following week.
- Working with the school nurse in processing annual hearing and eye exams.
- Helping the Physical Education teachers referee their recreational basketball tournament.
- Experiencing some of the San Carlos Apache history and culture through having a traditional Apache meal, visiting various parts of the Reservation including Old San Carlos, the Coolidge Dam, Roosevelt Lake, Tonto National Forest, ancient cave dwellings, and the Peridot Mines.
Philadelphia, Pennyslvania (Interfaith ASB)
This year was our first Interfaith ASB experience. Our students lived at St. Margaret House on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and participated in a program designed and led by members of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. The highlight was spending a day at St. Joseph’s University with Eboo Patel, the founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps (IFYCI), and meeting Sororng Som, a Buddhist, Syrian refugee who is now Director of Immigrant Affairs at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Sister Terry Saetta, RSM, spent the week with us and explored with us the five Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy. We learned the importance of asking curious questions, guidelines for dialogue and shared meaningful objects from our faith traditions with one another. Other activities included:
- Sunday Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church and engaging with the youth of the parish over lunch as they shared why they worship intentionally at St. Vincent’s.
- Dinner (langar) and worship with members of the Sikh Society at Upper Darby Gurudwara,
- Meditative prayer at the Won Buddhist Temple
- Dinner and meaningful conversation at the home of a Baha’i family
- Morning Lenten Liturgy at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
- Jumuah prayers at Masjidullah Mosque
- Shabbat at Rodeph Shalom.
- Serving at Face to Face in Germantown, at Heritage Farm (a sustainable urban farm) and packing over 400 30lb. boxes of nutritional care packages for senior citizens.
In Cincinnati our students lived in Regina Hall, a Mercy convent with five wonderful sisters who invited them to be at home in their home for the week. They loved getting to know their host sisters and sharing family meals with them. From there they served in a variety of Mercy-sponsored ministries, witnessing the goodness of so many staff and committed volunteers who spend their days in the service of some of Cincinnati’s most vulnerable citizens. Sites included:
- St. Boniface School, where all but twelve of the 180 students live below the poverty line
- Bethany House, where women and children seeking emergency shelter can find a bed, a home-cooked meal, and a variety of support services
- Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, where elderly neighbors living alone on razor-thin fixed incomes find friendship, dignity, and celebration.
- Visits to the Freedom Center (Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad Museum) and to McAuley Convent (for prayer and supper with retired sisters) rounded out the students’ experiences of service, justice, and Mercy hospitality.
Team Benson spent the week with three sisters of Mercy at Mercy Farm. Sisters Mary, Betty, and Holly modeled selflessness and servant leadership in beautiful ways each and every day! We began each day by learning about the importance of tending our earth's resources through a video series called “Awakening the Dreamer.” We discussed ways in which individuals and communities can positively impact the earth, preserving it for future generations. In the afternoons we visited local farms to offer assistance in a variety of ways.
- We helped one farmer harvest crops for the market, and till and weed his planting beds in a large greenhouse that was roughly the size of a field!
- We visited and toured Green Mountain University, learning about the amazing ways that they have gone completely carbon free in order to do their part and minimize their impact on the planet.
- At Mercy Farm, we helped to chop wood by hand, drive the 'Gator' and clear brush to prepare for spring planting, build a fence in the barn, and de-burr the barn cat (affectionately named “Barn Cat”).
- We also scraped honey frames to prepare the beehives for their May delivery of honey bees that will provide honey and wax for the community.
This was a wonderful experience, which gave our students a very real perspective and experience of the difference between urban and rural poverty; the needs may be different, but the goal of service does not change. It was an incredible way to learn more about one of the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy: care for and relationship with all of God’s creation.
We are sorry to report that the May, 2017 delegation was postponed indefinitely by the the floods and mudslides that devastated a significant portion of coastal Peru. Here is what we were hoping to do; stay tuned for news of future plans!
As part of an ongoing partnership between Mercy ministries, two Education faculty (Mary Jo Pierantozzi and Dr. Monica Walsh) traveled to Chulucanas, Peru in the summer of 2015 to provide pedagogy workshops at La Universidad Católica Sedes Sapientiae for faculty who are skilled in their disciplines but never received formal instruction in teaching. The faculty received this training enthusiastically and expressed a desire for more. We would like to provide distance education but there are several technological challenges: poor connectivity; older equipment, and a lack of facility with technology on the part of the users. Therefore in May 2017 GMercyU planned to send a "technology assessment delegation." Led by faculty/staff from ITS and Campus Ministry, this delegation was going to do an on-ground assessment of the technology present at the Universidad and also Ceo Betania, a nearby skills training facility for women. Student and faculty/staff participants wanted to spend time becoming familiar with these ministries and noticing, with regard to technology, what is present, what is needed, and what is possible. They sought to understand not only the technological issues, but more importantly the culture, values, and mindset of the people who live and work in these communities. The goal was to return to Gwynedd Mercy prepared to involve others in implementing positive change in Chulucanas in full and respectful partnership with our Peruvian counterparts.
Juniors and seniors in the BSN program have the opportunity to attend the International Nursing Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic during spring break. Together, faculty and students provide care to Haitians working in the sugar cane fields, most of whom have limited access to medical care. This annual mission trip began in 2006 with two students and grew to 28 students in 2015. In 2016, an alumni group of 8-10 graduates worked alongside our faculty and current students, further expanding the opportunity to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of others. While on this Mission Trip, students take various leadership and community courses in conjunction with preparing for the trip, in addition to collecting donated items for the people they help. Students fundraise to support the trip. More information will be provided to you in your nursing classes.
Since 2013, Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing & Health Professions graduate students have spent their spring break providing aid to people who have limited or no access to medical care at Santisisimo Sacramento Parish in Piura, Peru. Graduate students spend the week in villages doing everything from relieving headaches to repairing a colostomy gone wrong. As graduate students, they have the knowledge and experience to problem solve and do the best they can with the resources they have.
Get a firsthand look at what students were doing across the country as they explored new cultures, broadened their perspectives, and made a real difference in the lives of others.
Nursing major Adrienne Kelly joins other GMercyU students, faculty and staff on an Alternative Spring Break Mission Trip to New Orleans, learning about the history and culture of one of America's most exciting cities, and also doing service projects at Mercy Endeavors, a local senior center, and St. Alphonso’s school. Read her story on the GMercyU blog, MERV's Word.
Biology major Rachel Zobel spent her Alternative Spring Break at Rice Elementary School on an Apache Reservation in San Carlos, Arizona, working with teachers and children. Serving others has become such an important part of Rachel's life that she plans to join the Peace Corps after graduating from GMercyU. You can read her story on GMercyU's blog, MERV's WORD.
Chelsea Gadecki also is spending the week at Rice Elementary School in San Carlos, Arizona. She writes about spending time with Steven Rufe, a 2012 graduate of our Education degree program, who now teaches there full time. You can read her story on our blog.