STORM LAKE — Ten Buena Vista University (BVU) students participated in an AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-site Learning) trip during spring break, enabling them to volunteer their time and service with a focus on children and poverty in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
During this trip, BVU students traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and volunteered in nearby Copse, where they assisted with many day-to-day activities at the West Haven Children’s Home, an orphanage for disabled children.
In addition to helping feed, bathe and get the children ready for the day, the students helped plan Sports Day, an event similar to the Special Olympics.
Tesia Posekany of Woodburn participated in the trip. Posekany is a senior biology major at BVU.
Co-advisors for the trip were Dr. Ashley Farmer-Hanson, director of civic engagement at BVU, and Dr. Matt Hanson, assistant professor of exercise science.
“Students grow during the week, and they come back inspired to change something locally,” Farmer-Hanson said. “It shows students that there are people all over the world, including in Storm Lake, who we can serve, learn from and work with to solve some of the most crucial social problems.”
“I spent time with a girl who was physically disabled and unable to speak, but on Sports Day, she smiled and giggled the whole time,” said Sharon Feld, a senior athletic training and exercise science major from Bondurant and student site leader for the trip. “Watching our actions bring a little girl so much happiness really left a lasting impression. These experiences create a sense of caring and compassion in people and a desire to do more.”
Sloane Morrow, a sophomore elementary education major from Fort Dodge and also a student site leader, said, “Jamaica has been one of the most eye-opening, life-changing and beautiful opportunities I have ever had.”
AWOL has sent more than 500 volunteers and completed nearly 18,000 hours of service worldwide, furthering its mission to immerse students in different cultures, heighten social awareness and advocate life-long social action through service on a local, regional and international level.
Four AWOL trips took place this year, with more than 40 BVU students participating.
The other trips focused on disaster relief and clean-up efforts in Greeley, Colo.; environmental research and animal rescue in Costa Rica; and hunger and health outreach in Staten Island, N.Y.
Information about the additional AWOL trips can be found on BVU’s website at www.bvu.edu/news.