Mizzou Alternative Breaks students reflect on their winter experiences

Freshman Ola Babalola: “We aren’t going to change the community in one week, but we are a smaller portion of a bigger change.”

Throughout the holiday season, students traded in parts of their vacations for service trips through Mizzou Alternative Breaks, an organization that sends groups of students on a variety of service trips both domestically and internationally.

MAB recently organized a set of trips over Thanksgiving break, which lasted from Nov. 20-29, and a set of winter trips from Jan. 8-17.

MAB trips aim to serve communities facing issues such as poverty, disease, disabilities and more. Students are expected to follow core MAB principles that guide members in serving each community, according to MAB’s website. For some members like freshman Ola Babalola, some principles resonated deeply with their experience.

“According to one of the MAB principles, ‘Poco A Poco,’ we aren’t going to change the community in one week, but we are a smaller portion of a bigger change,” Babalola said. “We meet variety of people who you don't get to meet on a daily basis. These people are willing to tell us their story and bond with us because we aren't just serving them for the week but are also communicating love at the same time.”

Babalola participated in a trip to Austin, Texas, that focused on multiple women’s issues. Group members were able to volunteer at organizations and shelters like SafePlace, Casa Marianella and Girlstart.

“Casa was personally my favorite service site because I was able to connect personally with some of the people there,” Babalola said. “They were all friendly and willing to share their stories with us because we put them above yourself and we were ready to listen.”

Students do not get to select the location of the trip they will go on. Rather, they are grouped by which issue they would like to address and the destination remains unknown until the participants are chosen,

Traveling to each destination gives groups the opportunity to get to know each other before beginning their week of service together. For sophomore Kristen Kaestner, getting to know fellow students was one of the many benefits of attending an MAB trip.

“When you’re riding in a car together for 18 hours, it’s kind of awkward because you don’t really know these people,” Kaestner said. “Once you’re living, working and spending 24 hours a day with these people you become really close. We’re all so different, but we still got along great.”

Kaestner traveled to Kissimmee, Florida, to work with Give Kids the World Village, a cost-free resort for children with life-threatening illnesses. The resort has 116 paid employees, with volunteers providing the remaining work needed in order for the resort to function.

Group members were able to work closely with children at the resort throughout their weeklong trip.

“Having one-on-one experiences with kids and their families was so rewarding,” Kaestner said. “You can just tell they’re so grateful to be there, but there’s also just an underlying sadness to that excitement that you can feel.”

Students who attend MAB trips are considered by the organization part of the “MAB family,” whether or not they choose to attend more than one trip. For many, more MAB trips are likely part of their future at MU.

“I plan on going on other MAB trips for the next three out of four years I have at Mizzou,” Babalola said. “I like the fact that MAB has a lot of time such as weekend trips, winter, Thanksgiving and spring for students to go on service trips that do not affect student's academics in any way. I definitely recommend everyone go on one of MAB’s alternative breaks.”

Applications for MAB weekend trips open Jan. 25.

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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