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Columbia Missourian

Mizzou Alternative Spring Break offers its first winter service trips

By Ayano Shimizu
December 19, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA­­­­­­­­­­ — Last spring, MU student Lucas Moore was translating Spanish to English at a community health clinic in the Dominican Republic.

He went as part of Mizzou Alternative Spring Break, which had started volunteering for Outreach360. The international service organization emphasizes education in the Dominican Republic.

Although the 10 students from MU were supposed to teach English and Spanish in  local classrooms, Moore and two other members ended up helping the community health clinic organized by the University of Tampa. It was a wonderful experience, he said.

Moore, now expansion chairman of Mizzou ASB, as it is known, is heading back to the Dominican Republic — but sooner than spring break. For the first time, three Mizzou ASB groups are volunteering their time and energy during winter break.

Two are working with Habitat for Humanity in Marion County, Ala., and Lexington, Ky. The groups have 12 students each and are there this week.

Moore will be among the 30 students in the third group, which will be in the Dominican Republic from Jan. 12 to 19. Students will teach English and Spanish in classrooms and public health literacy in community centers.

"We thought there is a big opportunity in the winter," Moore said. The timing seems to work for a lot of students.

More than 100 students applied for the Habitat programs in Alabama and Kentucky, Moore said. The program in the Dominican Republic was open only to nursing students and site leaders in other disciplines, such as Moore, who is majoring in journalism and Spanish. It attracted more than 100 applicants.

Last year, 22 trips were organized through Mizzou ASB, which equaled about 15,000 hours of service work in a week.

The programs working with Habitat with Humanity are trying to finish up housing projects before the holidays.

"We are working on a house for a family who lost their house in a tornado," said Lauren Damico, one of the two site leaders for the Alabama program. Damico, a senior from Kansas City, is studying political science and history.

The foundation of the house was already set before they arrived, and they are constructing a safe room to protect the family from future tornadoes, she said. Because the family is living in temporary housing, the Habitat group would like to finish the house as soon as possible, she said.

Damico was working in South Dakota last spring to build a house for a Native American reservation. She said she can say with confidence that it was the best experience she has had in college.

With the new opportunity during winter break, "I would never say no," Damico said.

Moore, a senior from Glen Ellyn, Ill., said an important part of his experience in the Dominican Republic was getting to know Outreach360's 10 principles for successful volunteering.

One of the principles, "Serve, don’t help," changed the way Moore sees the world. Anyone can help others, he said, but serving is different. Helping is doing something for others, he said.

Service, however, is a "two-way street, bringing good to both sides."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.