CLEMSON — Many Clemson students are about to embark for spring break, but not to relax, to help others in need.

More than 235 students from many organizations will be participating in some kind of service trip next week.

The Alternate Break Program is sending 20 students to Biloxi, Miss., March 15-21 to participate in Gulf Coast environmental restoration. They will work on projects for erosion prevention and dune restoration, as well as working with homeless shelters in the community.

“Alternative Break Program is something I am really passionate about,” said Thackston Crandall, one of two student project coordinators. “I have a lot of respect for any student that sacrifices a week of vacation to travel to another city and volunteer, but with sacrifice comes great reward. Students make life-long friends, have an impact on people and communities that is unimaginable and leave feeling completely humbled and fulfilled.”

Students Helping Honduras is a student organization that is sending 81 students on a trip to El Progreso, Honduras.

Graduate nursing student Jennifer Ashley prepares to make a spring break trip to the Dominican Republic.

Graduate nursing student Jennifer Ashley prepares to make a spring break trip to the Dominican Republic.

They will work alongside students from other universities to build Democracia Middle School, which was started by Clemson students during winter break. Students will be mixing and pouring cement and laying cinder blocks to form the walls of the school. In the afternoons, they will spend time with the children in the village by tutoring or playing soccer, and at night there will be activities like movies, salsa dancing or dinner at the beach.

“The work that we do in the village is extremely important,” said Anne Marie Boswell, the former president of Students Helping Honduras. “The village lacks access to a middle school, and many kids have to stop studying after sixth grade. Without being able to continue their education, the cycle of poverty will continue. If we are able to finish Democracia Middle School this spring break, about 100 middle school children will be able to start learning in August.”

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children has two trips planned. A group of 12 Clemson students will go to the Dominican Republic and 15 students will go to Nicaragua.

The participants in Nicaragua will assist with a pediatric health program, one for diabetes control and education and “Los Pipitos,” a developmental program. They also will assist in the local clinic.

The group going to the Dominican Republic will work in a rural community to raise health awareness, conduct health promotion presentations, help renovate a hospital and participate in a health fair that will promote nutrition, dental hygiene and vitamins.

CONNECTIONS, a minority mentor program housed in the Gantt Center for Student Life, is sending 11 undergraduate students and three graduate students to Los Parceleros just outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to build a home for a family.

Also going to the Dominican Republic are six undergraduate nursing majors and 13 graduate nurse practitioner students. They will work at a clinic in San Juan de la Maguana to help patients with both acute and chronic illnesses, perform minor procedures, provide de-worming medication and vitamins and help educate people on such topics as hand-washing, dehydration prevention and nutrition. Prior to leaving, the students will package medications to take to the clinic.

This is the nursing student group’s seventh year taking a spring break service trip and its second year in the Dominican Republic. Health care for many Dominicans is hours away and some are poor and don’t have transportation. Even the emergency rooms will not see patients unless they pay first.

A second group of nursing students will go to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas to work in clinics all over the island. They will be joining Clemson Wesley, a United Methodist campus ministry that is sending 31 students on the trip this year.

“In addition to repairing homes, students will also work in the local schools and help create a recycling center for the island. CW works alongside community members on many local initiatives. A big part of the experience is immersing in the local culture. Students have the opportunity to experience ‘island time’ and a different way of living than we are accustomed to in the U.S.,” said Austin Balser, a student leader for the trip.

He promises one thing, though: “Our trip wouldn’t be complete without some beach time and beaches in Eleuthera are incomparable to any beaches I’ve ever seen.”

Clemson Wesley also is sending 30 students to West Virginia, where students will participate in various projects around the state, including partnering with a local Habitat for Humanity chapter to build a new home, helping in soup kitchens, building wheelchair ramps, strengthening house foundations and serving at a residential school for youth in the foster care system.

Giving up spring break to serve others does not mean the students will not have fun, though. They will spend the last day of the trip snow tubing, caving, and exploring the New River Gorge.

The Clemson University chapter of Habitat for Humanity is sending 13 students to Hattiesburg, Miss., to work on a house for Valeria Patterson and her children. Patterson herself has dedicated 10 years of her life to working with Habitat for Humanity.

It is fun to travel to a new location, but according to Maeghan Timothy, the vice president and spring break coordinator of the organization, there is more to it than that. “As an organization we not only desire to serve our own community, but to serve those communities all over this world that are in need of help,” she said.

— Blake Bachara

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