Imagine this. You wake up from a long night’s rest on a blue cot. With your legs hanging off the sides, you can hear your neighbor slowly waking up next to you. You walk down a long, dark hallway and pass several bright orange doors. It is time to wake up, it is a new day. But this is not Miami.
You are 117 miles away from home. You go outside and all you see is an open field, chickens and lots of huge white, red and black roosters.
This was the reality of 50 UM students, all from different majors and disciplines, who participated in the University of Miami Alternative Breaks program. They ventured to the Florida Keys, Clearwater and many others cities across Florida for one goal: service.
Whether by providing hot meals to migrant workers in Immokalee or building homes in Vero Beach, students worked to make a difference over the four-day service excursions.
Sophomore Michael Garcia said that he had the opportunity to volunteer in Immokalee with Cultivate Abundance, which is an organization that helps migrant workers with food insecurity.
“I had a great experience,” Garcia said. “It was great learning about migrant workers in Immokalee and helping them with their community garden. It was interesting to learn about the problems they face and to help them with their needs.”
Garcia, a biomedical engineer major, said that he has been on two trips so far, but venturing to Immokalee made a significant impact on him due to the trip’s focus on immigration.
“There is a problem with our immigration system and it was really sad to see how the immigrants are being treated,” said Garcia. “And it is something that is being worked on.”
With months of planning and extensive research, the UMAB executive board reaches out to nonprofits and organizations across the United States for service trips in order to push students out of their comfort zone.
Senior Neha Aitharaju, who was fundamental in the implementation of the fall break service trips, said UMAB gives students the opportunity to make an impact in Florida and across the country.
A neuroscience major and UMAB co-chair, Aitharaju has been on two trips with the organization, and believes her experiences have changed her outlook on social and cultural challenges in the United States.
“There are certain issues that we can address but there are certain issues that we want students to be involved in,” said Aitharaju. “It is a life changing experience [because] you are affecting so many different populations.”
The Miami native said that UMAB is planning service trips for the spring, and if students want to get involved they can visit umalternativebreaks.wixsite.com/umab for more updates.