SERCAP’s VFC Alternative Break Program has been in operation since 1987. The program began as an opportunity for college students to travel to rural locations during spring break and emmerse themselves in the culture of rural America while providing community service to low-income individuals, families, and communities. 27 years later, the landscape has changed.
Alternative Break programs are becoming ubiquitous and global. A number of companies offer similiar experiences, but travel to developing nations accross the globe makes the prospect of these opportunities more exciting. However, while more and more students and schools choose to travel abroad, that does not
change the need for volunteer labor and the alternative break model in modern day America. For those who do choose to stay a little closer to home, other programs provide service projects, but students and faculty adviors are on their own for evening meals and activities.
In an effort to keep up with the times and compete with many newer programs VFC is adapting its model. For the 2014/2015 academic year, VFC Alternative Break is offering a choice of experiences and emphasizing the service learning aspect through specific educational tracts. Previously the Cultural Emmersion Experience was VFC’s primary focus, now SERCAP and VFC are excited to introduce the new Work & Play Expereince for institutions and students who would like more freedom with their service learning break.
Cultural Emersion Experience
The traditional Cultural Emersion Experience provides the student volunteers with both meaningful service-learning opportunities and a rich cultural emersion experience that provides the student with a deeper understanding of the realities of living in rural America as a low-income individual or family. Through the Cultural Emersion Experience, students stay in the community (at a church, school, community center, or other centralized location) in locally available lodging, work with community volunteers on service-learning projects, eat meals with the community members, and participate in organized evening activities that further educate the students about local culture and color.
Work & Play Experience
SERCAP’s VFC Alternative Break Work & Play Experience provides the student volunteers with an opportunity for service-learning and free time to explore local attractions on their own. Work & Play Experience host sites are generally located within a 90 minute drive of attractions such as: popular beaches (Myrtle Beach, SC), historic areas (Charleston, SC), and local theme parks (Walt Disney World). Students spend mornings and afternoons (9am – 3pm) in the host community working with community volunteers on meaningful service-learning projects and then have their evenings free to play and visit popular attractions and vacation spots. The Work & Play Experience is designed to provide the best of both worlds, engaging service-learning and a fun vacation experience.
SERCAP’s VFC Alternative Break Program is also in the process of developing a full slate of service-learning tracts that are directly related to specific academic areas of study. By developing these tracts, VFC is offering academic institutions and their students an opportunity to work in the real world and apply theories and philosophy to practical applications.
During the 2014 Spring Break Week, VFC launched a pilot run of the Medical Tract. VFC is currently developing a number of other field / discipline specific tracts and plans to include the following:
- Medical – provides opportunities for students going into the medical field to volunteer at small community clinics and hospitals.
- Engineering – students will work with civil engineers on water / wastewater projects.
- Early Childhood Education – students will work with local schools and / or day care providers to assist in developing learning games and sprucing up curriculum’s.
- Veterinary & Agri-Science – students will work with farmers or small rural veterinarians to gain experience in working with livestock and / or crops.
- Accounting – students will work with local community action agencies and / or small businesses to assist them in getting their books in order.
- Art – students will work with communities to create / paint a community mural that represents the community’s culture at a community center, school, public library, or other appropriate space.
- Computer Science / Information Technology / Web Design – students will have the opportunity to work with local governments, community action agencies, and / or small local businesses to build their computer networks and establish an effective online presence through website design and social media establishment and techniques.
The above list is just a sample of the possibilities that the VFC Alternative Break Program offers its participants to support specific disciplines. If your academic department is interested in a service learning trip with a specific focus VFC can work with you to meet your needs. Contact us at 540-345-1184 for more details or to begin planning your service learning experience.