Alternative Winter Break expands abroad

The program will include two trips to the Dominican Republic.

MU’s alternative breaks program is projected to be the largest in the country this year.

Last year, MU’s Alternative Break Program was the fourth-largest alternative break program in the country in number of participants and number of trips, ASB adviser Bryan Goers said.

Alternative Winter Break will launch 12 domestic and two international sites this year. Last year’s winter program consisted of only three trips, Winter Service director Michael Loida said.

More than 1,000 students applied for an alternative break trip last year, including winter and spring break, but there were only 480 spots available, Goers said.

“This is one of the main reasons we’re growing so much this year,” Goers said. “If you look at our projections, we will send out 800 students this year. So in theory, we will be the largest program in the country.”

Along with the growing number of participants, the AWB program has experienced many other changes.

“Last year, we didn’t need much marketing, and the spots were easily filled,” Loida said. “This year, we used more defined marketing, like tabling and social media.”

The international trips are limited to site leaders and certain majors. The other 12 domestic trips are open for all students to apply.

“In general, there are no differences between the alternative spring and winter trips, except that all winter trips are sent south generally,” Loida said.

Some of the domestic sites this winter will include Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama.

The international trips this winter include two sites in the Dominican Republic and one in Nicaragua. These trips are only open to education and Spanish majors, as well as current and former site leaders.

“We really want students to apply based on their passion for these various issues and not so much for the geographical location of the trips,” Loida said.

Some of the issues these trips address include children, health, education, animals, environmental issues and housing.

“Missouri students just have this passion to give back, and alternative break program allows them to do it in a fun way outside Columbia,” Goers said. “There are very few opportunities like this, and I think people have such positive experience on these trips.”

Senior Madde Hinkfuss has been involved in the alternative break program for three years and will be a site leader for the second time this winter.

“My favorite part is you go on this trip, and you don’t know anyone,” Hinkfuss said. “It’s basically 12 strangers. You just bond and meet so many new people. And on top of it, you’re doing service and helping the country.”

Hinkfuss said she read more than 300 applications for just her site alone last year.

“The main thing we look at are the essays,” Hinkfuss said. “We don’t know who you are or your names, so it is very important to be unique.”

Applications for the AWB trips were open until Sept. 10. ASB applications will open Sept. 23 and close Nov. 1.

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