| 03.21.2018

Experiencing a new side to volunteering — ASB trips go beyond simple volunteerism


The Alternative Service Break trips created by the University of Idaho Center for Volunteerism every year offer a chance for students to not only do service work and gain hands on experience, but also to discuss major issues facing our world today, said Bruce Mann, the coordinator for the Center for Volunteerism.
He said these issues include social justice, conservation and sustainability.
Every year, since 2001, students and faculty have been able to experience a different perspective on life and better understand the hardships people face, Mann said.
“It is tough to know the complexities of issues if you don’t live them,” he said.
Knowing and understanding theses complex issues and experiencing diversity are two major components of the ASB trips.
“Being exposed to different life experiences and opinions is what college is about,” Mann said.
He said this is something the ASB trips try to foster — from the places they go to serve to the teams that are created. Mann said they try to make sure people get a diverse experience, whether it is diversity of age or fraternity/sorority members paired with non-members.
They also pair the service with an educational aspect to get people really thinking about what they are doing and seeing.
“It is an incredible learning opportunity to see something completely, especially different from Moscow, Idaho.” said Kelby Sommer, one of the three ASB coordinators for this year.
Mann said  they do not want the week or two week long trip to be the only experience for people — they want people to think about what is next and what they can do in the future.
Sommer is one of those people who have continued the experience, as he has been on three trips, and says each one is incredibly different than the others.
“I signed up and had a great time,” he said when speaking of his first experience.
He said that is why he continued to be involved and go on ASB trips.
“It is an exciting experience to make new relationships with people at the site and with your team,” Sommer said.
Mann said the educational aspect and the fact that they plan the trips as a group makes UI ASB trips different from other universities..
“We do everything on our own, which is a little bit different than most schools,” Mann said.
He said that in the educational aspect of the trips, UI is in the upper quarter compared to other schools, and that UI plans trips a little differently.
“I am personally really proud of how we are organized and how much our three student coordinators are pretty much planning and executing every last bit of it,” he said.
Though they only have one week, they want the service to be meaningful, Mann said. Which can be hard, he said, since Moscow — and Idaho in general — is isolated from many areas. He said this is why the ASB trips go back to the same places so often, so that the students can see they are part of something bigger.
Since the trips are often across the country country, and can be up to $13,000 per team, student fees are used to help pay for most of the trip, Mann said.
He said $5 from every student goes toward sending people on trips, and  the students who go on the trips pay only one-third of the cost.
Mann said that in a perfect world, students would not have to pay anything — it is very hard for him to have students pay when one of the main things people learn about on the trip is social injustice.
He said  it seems wrong to be teaching social injustice, and then not have a person be able to have this experience because they cannot afford it.
This spring UI will send one team to New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Atlanta and then two teams to Oregon, California, Idaho and Louisiana.
Sommer said  going on these trips also gives people the chance to see something besides Moscow.
“It is an opportunity to notice something that you wouldn’t think about,” he said.
He will  lead a team in Eugene, Ore., where they will work on and learn about conservation, such as trail and wetland restoration.
As a coordinator, he was able to think about new ways people could serve and learn the community, and was able to plan a trip around it.
The program is very student lead and advisor supported, Sommer said.
He says he is very excited for the trip.
Allison Griffith can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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