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Alternative Spring Break Showcase 2013

Participants in recent ASB program shared stories with Concordians about their volunteer experiences
March 28, 2013
By Lesley De Marinis

Dean of Students Andrew Woodall. | All photos by Concordia University
Dean of Students Andrew Woodall. | All photos by Concordia University

“I am what I am because of who we all are,” began Dean of Students Andrew Woodall, quoting the translation of the Bantu word Ubuntu. “We do not live in isolation. Our success is directly linked to the success of others around us, and this, of course, is at the root of the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program.”

On March 22, nearly 50 people gathered at the Alternative Spring Break Showcase to celebrate the students and staff members who participated in this year’s reading week program.

“Today, we’re taking a moment to recognize a tangible manifestation of a key part of our vision at Concordia as a post-secondary institution, dedicated to experiential or service learning,” Woodall told the gathering. “In many ways, this experience, I think, and those like it, will be as important to you later as will your degree.”

The Alternative Spring Break program gives students and staff an opportunity to participate in a week of hands-on volunteer work either in Montreal and its environs or in other countries.

In an afternoon filled with multimedia presentations, laughter, and some tears, participants spoke about why they chose to take part in the program. They explained the personal reflection that accompanies experiential learning, and the ups and downs of their group-volunteering experiences in Montreal, the Laurentians, and New Orleans.

“One of the things we found over the years with this program is that it’s also about this group of people, and what happens with this group of people,” said co-coordinator Terry Kyle. “It’s not just about the people you help and the work that you do.”

Kyle explained that after several preparation workshops, participants had already formed a tight bond — one of the major takeaways from the ASB. “As they spoke, people were finishing each other’s sentences and stuff like that. Any time that we have a chance to do that with people, it’s a wonderful experience.”

Some participants struggled with understanding the value of their volunteering contribution. But they soon realized that even small acts, such as delivering meals or painting rooms, contributed to making a big difference.

“Before we arrived in New Orleans, I was kind of cynical about the impact we could make,” said Alyssa Forneaux. “Almost eight years after Katrina and Rita, I thought the city would mostly be rebuilt and that we would be tying up loose ends. After a short drive in the outskirts of the city, we learned the city is nowhere near rebuilt. That night, we ate at a nearby restaurant and the waitress told us about her storm experience and thanked us for being in New Orleans. Her thanks put value on what we were doing and it carried me all week.”

For some participants, the ASB program awakened a new passion for volunteering.

Pierre Gianferrara shares his ASB experience as teammates Julia Pinheiro-Carvalho and Calvin Yu look on.
Pierre Gianferrara shares his ASB experience as teammates Julia Pinheiro-Carvalho and Calvin Yu look on.

“It made us question ourselves,” said Pierre Gianferrara, who volunteered in Montreal. “And for me it piqued a new need, a personal need which is a need of volunteering. That is why just after the ASB, I decided to commit even more and so now I’m an actual volunteer at two different organizations.”

Each participant seemed to walk away from the program with new friends, a new self-awareness, and a new understanding of volunteering and experiential learning that all of them hope to continue to share with the Concordia community.


“Because we’re all in this together, your narratives will become part of our narrative,” Woodall said. “With your assistance, we are strengthening the narrative of who we are as Concordians and thereby increasing our collective resilience. My sense is that you’re walking a little taller thanks to your ASB experience, and if you’re walking a little taller, we’re all walking a little taller.”

Considering taking part next year? Information sessions are held in October. Watch NOW for more details.

Watch the slideshow from the event:

Related links:
•    Alternative Spring Break
•    “Alternative Spring Break on display” — NOW, March 18, 2013

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