Spring break service trips popular among students

Travel provides opportunity to 'dwell within a community'


Summer 2011

This year, more than 120 Calvin students chose to spend their spring break in service, doing such tasks as assisting with oil cleanup and learning about urban poverty.

“We have a variety of trips to reach a great segment of the student population,” said Noah Kruis, associate director of Calvin’s service-learning center.

Calvin partnered with four new organizations this spring break. Students worked with City Lights ministry in St. Louis, Mo., focusing on issues surrounding urban education. The students received a comprehensive view of the city, visiting the tourist spots as well as the poverty-stricken areas.

Another group worked with Trails Forever in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The trip had a wilderness focus: students did trail maintenance, lived in the park and cooked their meals over a fire.

In Mobile, Ala., students worked with L’Arche USA, which is an offshoot of L’Arche, an organization founded in France that provides an intentional Christian community integrating people with and without cognitive disabilities.

Spring Break Trip

And yet another group of students headed to Koinonia Farm in Americus, Ga., an intentionally interracial religious community started in 1940 by Clarence Jordan (1912–1969). On their way back from Koinonia Farm, students met with Wendell Berry, a well-known advocate of grassroots farming, who talked to the students about Christian intentional agriculture.

“Food is such a current topic … the food-farm relationship to our society,” said Kruis. “They’re not just looking at agriculture, but also at social justice and racial reconciliation.”

Upon their return, each group was scheduled to perform a service project in Grand Rapids related to the trip’s focus. This is a new initiative, and Kruis said it will help students realize there’s a lot to do right here in west Michigan.

“We often think of going elsewhere to serve, bringing our abundant resources to an under-resourced community,” said Kruis, “but the truth is that there is much that we can learn and do in service to our own community.”

Kruis emphasized that the purpose of these trips reaches far beyond the students’ manual labor. “Most trips are focused on dwelling within a community. There’s less focus placed on accomplishing a task; rather listening to people’s stories, experiencing life as it’s lived in another place.”