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. 

Campus Ministry Alternative Spring Break Service Experiences

Gwynedd y Peru:  Technology Assessment Delegation 2017

Nursing Mission Trips

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.

Campus Ministry Alternative Spring Break Service Experiences

Download an Alternative Spring Break application (PDF)!

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

Learn more about how you can participate in an upcoming Alternative Spring Break Mission Trip.

Download an Alternative Spring Break application (PDF).

ASB Timeline

Alternative Spring Break service sites are determined during the fall semester.

Applications are due January 19th, 2017.  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 27th, 2017. 

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 25th, 2017 from 8-10 a.m.
  • BINGO: Friday, March 24th at 7 p.m. in the gym

We always need BINGO prizes and raffle baskets as well as Finer Things prizes. Contact Christine Eberle, 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 $625/student. 

Questions?  Contact Lauren DuCharme at or 215-641-5592.


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:

  • Helping the school nurse complete hearing exams for 6th graders
  • Teaching lessons in classrooms
  • Assisting the maintenance and custodial crews
  • Working with the Physical Education instructors tasked with having the children complete their first-ever physical fitness testing
  • Accompanying children on a field trip to Tucson to an organization that provides clothing to underprivileged children
  • Experiencing some of the San Carlos Apache history and culture by sitting in on Apache Language Lessons in 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade classrooms, having a traditional Apache meal, visiting the San Carlos Apache Cultural Center, and touring different parts of the Reservation. 


In Savannah, our students learned about the cycle of poverty from Sisters of Mercy who have served the poor and marginalized in the forgotten parts of the city for decades. We spent the week with the clients of St. Joseph’s/Candler SOURCE (Service Options Using Resources in Community Environments).  SOURCE provides elderly people who are medically eligible for a nursing home with the medical and social services they need to fulfill their desire to remain living independently.  

Together, we provided a “Ministry of Presence” for clients at the Day Center throughout the week by:

  • Listening and sharing stories and memories in a spirit of accompaniment and compassion
  • Playing a lot of BINGO
  • Doing word searches, creating ceramics and dancing up a storm  
  • Accompanying staff members on several home visits, giving us a chance to meet clients in their homes and learn about them and their families  

We also were able to spend time with the Mercy Volunteer Corps volunteers during our time in Savannah as well, which provided much laughter and joy, and blessed our time together in a rich and beautiful way!   


Team New Orleans had a productive and enjoyable Alternative Spring Break. They divided their time between Mercy Endeavors, a senior center located in the Garden District of New Orleans and St. Alphonsus School located directly across the street.

At Mercy Endeavors, students and seniors worked on scrapbooks, played BINGO, provided manicures, and visited the local park for an afternoon of fun and photography. In addition, some students helped organize the many closets filled with supplies and replenished plants for some "curb appeal." Students also worked with the pre-K and Kindergarten classes at St. Alphonsus School and assisted the teachers with a variety of activities.

As a closure to the week, Team NOLA planned and carried out a mini-field day for the pre-K students complete with games, activities, and an ice cream snack. In addition to the many service activities, the team had opportunities to explore the culture of New Orleans by touring the French Quarter and visiting the Ninth and Lower Ninth Wards that were so affected by Katrina and the collapsing of the levee. 


In Cincinnati, our students witnessed the crisis of food insecurity for people on the edge of poverty.  After processing donated food and clothing for distribution at Mercy Franciscan St. John Social Service Center in the mornings, students offered a hot lunch and a warm greeting at the serving window, feeding the long line of neighbors in need who queue up there each day.  

Students also prepared and served dinner at Bethany House, an emergency shelter for women and children, and cared for the children after dinner so that their moms could take a yoga class to de-stress!  

Later in the week they threw a party for local seniors who receive services from Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, where caring people foster the dignity of each person with every interaction.  And through it all they were blessed to be living in Regina Hall, a Mercy convent with five wonderful sisters who invited them to be at home in their home for the week.  It was a wonderful experience, touching our students’ hearts with the spirit of Mercy.


Team Benson spent each morning learning about the importance of tending our earth's resources and discussed the many ways we, as individuals and groups, can have a positive impact on the earth, preserving it for future generations. Students had an opportunity to:

  • Visit a local milking farm to learn all about milking cows and what is involved in bringing milk from the cow to the table
  • Help to harvest lettuce, weed and tend to planting beds, and prepare them for the next crops.  
  • Plant herbs and paint the Mercy Farm facility.  

This was a wonderful experience which gave our students a different perspective on food, where it comes from, and the many people who take such great care in feeding us.  It was truly a wonderful 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.

Alternative Spring Break Mission Trip Sites for 2017

San Carlos, AZ

Baltimore, MD

Cincinnati, OH

Philadelphia, PA

Benson, VT

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Gwynedd y Peru: Technology Assessment Delegation 2017

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 will send a "technology assessment delegation."  Led by faculty/staff from ITS and Campus Ministry, this delegation will 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 will spend time becoming familiar with these ministries and noticing, with regard to technology, what is present, what is needed, and what is possible.  They will seek 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.  They will return to Gwynedd Mercy prepared to involve others in implementing positive change in Chulucanas in full and respectful partnership with our Peruvian counterparts.

Expenses will be covered primarily through grant money, supplemented by fund-raising in which all are expected to participate.  Students will be responsible for a non-refundable $100 deposit and personal expenses including meals during air travel days, acquiring a passport, and required vaccinations.

Applications (PDF), including faculty recommendation (PDF) are due February 15.  The students chosen for this delegation will be drawn from relevant fields of study (Computer Information Systems, Business / Finance, Education, etc.) and must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and at least one full year remaining until graduation.  Faculty recommendation, Dean’s approval, and personal interview are required.  Personal skills, qualities and attitudes of the ideal candidates include:

  • Cultural sensitivity and flexibility in living beyond one’s comfort zone
  • Willingness to engage new people and immerse oneself in a different culture
  • Ability to live and work collaboratively as a small community in close quarters
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Facility with relevant technology (productivity tools such as MS Suite), internet experience such as website development, etc.
  • Some familiarity with Spanish language
  • Commitment to formation meetings as well as shared prayer and reflection

With questions or to obtain a version of the application/recommendation in MS Word, please contact Lauren DuCharme,, or call 215-641-5592.

International Nursing ASB Mission Trip

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. 

2016 Alternative Spring Break Student Blogs

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.

Anastasia Clare spent the week at Mercy Farm, an eco-spiritual center, in Benson, Vermont.  You can read her story on GMercyU's 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.