Alternative Break – Burton, TX

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Our group had the opportunity to volunteer at Camp For All (CFA), which is a camp in Burton, Texas for kids and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Throughout the 5 days that we spent at CFA, we learned both from each other and the campers.

The first few days of service, we worked on maintenance around the camp, because the campers weren’t coming until the 4th day. One of the key values of ASB is “no task is too small”, meaning that our purpose is to do anything that the site needs of us. As site leaders, we were super proud of our participants for upholding these values. We helped CFA get the cabins ready for the kids that were arriving later in the week.

The morning that the campers arrived, we greeted the kids and helped unload their luggage off of the buses. Over the next two days with the kids we were able to run carnival games, serve lunch and dinner, help at a bonfire and throw a dance. We were lucky to be given the chance to interact with such lively campers, all of whom enlightened us on the harm that the stigma on physical disabilities holds. The kids taught us that a physical disability does not impede one’s ability to accomplish tasks.

Our work at Camp For All helped us to see the harm that exists in limiting a child just because of a physical disability. We learned that there is no right way or wrong way to do something, but it is instead an alternative way.

The $200 that we were awarded through Barger went towards our petty cash fund. Over the course of the trip, we used petty cash in order to relieve some of the financial stress on our participants. For example, our budget given to us from the ASB Lead Team did not cover meals on the road. In turn, the BLI Small Grant gave us the ability to pay for some of the meals on the road. We were able to fully subsidize a group lunch at a B-B-Q joint in Texas. In addition, we had to make the majority of our own meals while we were at camp. This required us to buy a substantial amount of groceries, given that we had to make meals for a group of 13. Not only did the grant help us to buy these groceries, but also it provided the opportunity to bond over team meal making. As a group, we also fundraised an additional $300 in order to reach our maximum petty cash fund amount. Thank you so much for helping us monetarily. Please let us know if there is anything we can do for the BLI community in the future!

Solar Spring Break

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On behalf of the University of Michigan’s Solar Spring Break team, I would like to thank you for the BLI Small Grant that helped our group successfully complete an alternative spring break project on the reservation of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians near San Diego, California. During our weeklong stay, eleven University of Michigan students partnered with the non-profit GRID Alternatives to install a total of forty-five solar panels on three different family homes on the reservation. At our debriefing session some of the words used to describe the week were “transformative,” “humbling,” “enriching,” “challenging,” and “empowering.” We agreed that the hands-on learning experiences we had on alternative spring break were exceptional opportunities to learn not only technical skills, but also to develop personally.

Our team experienced growth in three main areas:

1. Collaboration- It was important for our team to learn to work with cultural differences on the reservation and to be respectful that we were working in someone else’s home. To view the project as a cooperative effort between homeowner and students was pivotal in forming relationships with the community. Skills learned from collaborating with the nonprofit were also important lessons for future ventures.

2. Leadership- There was ample opportunity for all team members to act as leader throughout different portions of the trip. It helped all team members learn about what their strengths are and in what situations to implement them. We all grew when we were able to realize that part of being a leader means knowing when to act and when to uplift and support others who may have a different skillset. The nonprofit that we worked with helped empower us to be leaders in solar panel installation, but also empower community members to get involved as well.

3. Humility- During our stay on the reservation we were guests and had to act accordingly. Through efforts to reach out to the community we were able to form meaningful relationships. We were humbled by the strength, knowledge, and genuine nature of the Native Americans with whom we worked.

We appreciated the opportunity to grow as students by tackling the complex social problems related to the environment and low-income communities. We realize that our efforts would not have been made possible without the support of the Barger Leadership Institute, and for that we are sincerely grateful. We are always willing to come in and speak more to the faculty and students at the University of Michigan about our experiences and the ways that we believe they have enriched our education. You may find more pictures of our experience at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gridalternatives/sets/72157642564246643/page2/