While her peers are planning relaxing spring break vacations in sunny destinations, Carleton student Sarah Chown is planning a warm-weather trip of her own.
But rather than poolside service and parties, Chown will be living in a compound in Cuernavaca, Mexico, building houses and working in a recycling facility.
“We’re not just helping people,” said the fourth-year public affairs and policy management student. “We’ll be learning a lot from the people there as well.”
For the second year, more than two dozen students will be travelling to Mexico to volunteer and learn about issues like social justice and human rights as a part of Carleton’s Alternative Spring Break program.
“We call it ‘the other Mexico,'” said Joe Lipsett, leadership development and service learning co-ordinator for the First-Year Experience Office.
This type of hands-on learning, which has become popular in the last couple of years, allows students to take what they are learning in their studies and apply it in the community, said Lipsett.
“Basically, it’s a first-hand experience. They get to interact with the local community.”
Projects are determined by what the community needs, he said.
In return, students learn about what’s happening economically and socially in Mexico and draw parallels to what they’re learning in Canada.
“The experience is eye-opening,” Lipsett said.
The program attracts students from public affairs, arts, social science, social work, anthropology, journalism and human rights programs.
Through the same program, 15 students will be making a difference locally at an Ottawa elementary school.
Students volunteering at Cambridge Street Public School will learn about multiculturalism and assist elementary school students in creating projects that reflect the diversity of their school and community.