Whether they are helping people with AIDS in South Africa, building a house for Habitat for Humanity or helping to finish a classroom in Jamaica – many students at West Virginia University are spending their spring break giving back.

The students and faculty at WVU have several trips planned, both abroad and at home, designed to enhance their global knowledge and help others in the process. The trips will all take place during WVU’s spring break, scheduled for March 27- April 4.

“WVU students have a great history of doing service trips through their different breaks, especially spring break,” said Anna Phillips, outreach coordinator for Amizade. “This year there are even more students taking advantage of alternative spring breaks, which speaks volumes about WVU students. Just with our programs, we have more than doubled our registration.”

Click to hear the Inside WVU radio spot on spring break trips

WVU’s Center for Civic Engagement is working with Amizade to offer a service-learning spring break. Thirteen students will travel to Jamaica, where they will work with a local Jamaican non-profit organization to finish putting a roof on a classroom.

“This elementary school previously had 40 children, aged 3-5, to one teacher. By finishing the roof, they are able to bring in another teacher,” Phillips said.

While they are there, the students will also tutor local elementary, middle and high school students in computer courses.

In addition, students will experience Jamaican culture in a rural setting by going to a sugarcane factory, swamp tour, reggae night with local youth and cooking with local host families.

The trip is being led by Fieldcrest Resident Faculty Leader Richard Montgomery.

Building a home

Seth Hallam, a junior petroleum engineering major and resident assistant for the Gaskins House, wanted to give students a chance to give back and have a little fun. He worked with other WVU staff to organize a trip to Marion, S.C. where students will work with Habitat for Humanity to help finish a house.

The students – approximately 16 will participate – will be doing tasks such as painting, putting up dry wall and installing cupboards and cabinets. They will be staying in a local church for the first five days of the trip and for the last two days, they will travel to Myrtle Beach to engage in fun and relaxation.

“I think it’s good to do something productive over spring break. It’s very eye opening to see people who don’t live in decent conditions,” Hallam said. “There’s nothing more memorable than to say that you gave someone a home. It’s a pretty powerful statement.”

The trip is co-sponsored by Student Affairs and Student Support Services, a federally funded TRIO program dedicated to serving income eligible, first generation college students.

Assisting with AIDS relief

WVU Professor Presha Neidermeyer, who teaches international accounting in WVU’s College of Business and Economics, will take a group of students to South Africa to use their business knowledge to help people with AIDS.

Click to hear Presha Neidermeyer

Neidermeyer recently co-wrote a book, titled “Use What You Have,” on the obstacles to AIDS treatment in Africa. During which, she became inspired to lead a trip to South Africa as part of a business honors class.

The student volunteers will work with a non-profit agency, and use the skills they’ve learned in the classroom to help the agency with accounting, information technology, marketing and management.

“Business students can be immensely useful to the non-profits who are helping vast numbers of people cope with the disease and the familial situations that arise as a result of it,” Neidermeyer said.

The goal of the book and the class, she said, is to show individuals how they can play a part in the resolution to a crisis through collaboration.

“Without names and faces to go along with them, the statistics on the dead and dying are just numbers; with names and faces, they present a call to action. Africa changes your world view,” she said.



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