A record number of University of Central Florida students will volunteer their time on service projects abroad through the Alternative Break Program this spring break March 13-17.
More than 50 students will travel on one of three trips to Guatemala, Dominican Republic or Costa Rica as part of UCF’s Alternative Break Program that connects students with volunteer opportunities across the U.S. and the world.
The program offered its first international volunteer trip in 2013 to San Miguel de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica, and since, there’s been a high demand for more, said David Oglethorpe, assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement.
“Going abroad gives students such a change of perspective,” said Danielle Soto, student coordinator of the Costa Rica trip. “It shows us the privileges we have here, how deep some social issues can run and how these issues vary in different parts of the world.”
One of the forefront animal-rights issues in the United States, for example, is a push to adopt rescue animals instead of buying from pet stores or a breeder, Soto said. However, in Costa Rica, the focus is on curtailing illegal trade of exotic animals and habitat deforestation, she said.
Students volunteering in San Miguel, Costa Rica will work in an animal-rescue center dedicated to the rehabilitation of wildlife. In Antigua, Guatemala, students will help teach English, build tilapia ponds so the community can have a direct food source, and will help build stoves that use less wood to reduce the burden on the Guatemalan forests. In Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, students will work with at-risk children and women to help teach them new art skills and how to sell their art.
About another 60 students will travel across the eastern United States to volunteer with organizations that address homelessness, hunger, human trafficking, refugee resettlement, the environment and more. These trips span from Roanoke, Va., to Nashville, Tenn., to Key West, Fla.
The Alternative Break Program has been offered at UCF for about 20 years, said Haley Winston, assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement. It’s run by Volunteer UCF and is funded by the Student Government Association, which sponsors a portion of the trips. Students pay $250 for domestic spring break trips and $550 for international trips.
Alternative Break Program also connects students with volunteer trips during winter break and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to experience places outside of UCF and Orlando,” Oglethorpe said.