Ivy Leaf - Spring 2004
Spring Break 2004
While throngs of students look forward to hitting the beach for sun and fun each year during spring break, a group of 20 Penn State Altoona students and their faculty chaperones also looked forward to spending a week in the sun – but they were more concerned with making a difference in the lives of others than lying on the beach.
The group packed up donated items of food, clothing, toiletries, and school supplies and flew to the Dominican Republic in March, where they spent a week volunteering at a community school and orphanage in the city of Monte Cristi. While there, they played with the students and taught them English, painted the inside of the orphanage and a mural featuring Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, and made hundreds of candles for a fundraiser. They also sorted through hundreds of books and helped organize the library at the Orphanage Outreach-sponsored trip. And they've been making this trip for the past four years.
Faculty member Lee Ann DeReus, who organized the trip for the fourth time, said that the effect on the students who visit the orphanage has been the same.
"They come back, and it's a life-changing experience for them. They see how little people who live there have materially and they learn what service is really about."
Student Judy Leonard experienced such a life-changing experience when she was walking through town and ran into a woman who was eight months pregnant. Learning that she had nearly nothing for the baby, the students filled a bag full of necessities for her and took the bag to the woman.
"It was great to see the expression on her face," Leonard said. "She hugged us and kept saying she felt like she had so many friends."
"We probably get as much, if not more, out of it than the people we're helping," DeReus said. "You just run on adrenaline and their excitement."