Spending Spring Break Serving Others

Taofiki Gafar

Spring break means a lot to many college students. It is usually a time to relax or a time to go on vacation and party. In 2011, I did not have the funds to go on vacation nor did I want to go back home and relax at my parents. The logical conclusion was spending spring break at Fresno State.

In a case of serendipity, after leaving class one day, I ran into a campus flyer advertising Alternative Spring Break. Immediately, I knew I had to get involved. Why not spend my spring break helping others? Alternative Spring Break connected me to other students from different majors and put us together to accomplish a common goal.

Our task was to help church members in north Fresno build a community garden. Being a nurse major, who’s also a health enthusiast, I found this very exciting. A community garden gets people involved in their own food consumption and gives them access to fresh vegetables. I felt as if I was part of bettering their health, in addition to helping them build a garden.

Furthermore, most of the church members’ ages were between 50–60. As a college student, I did not spend a lot of time with this age group. The experience was also new for the church members because they did not spend time with people in our age group. This intermingling of ages allowed both sides to learn from one another. For example, Bill who preferred to be called the “Mo’ back Man” discussed how important it is to stay connected to people as you get older. For a group of college students who connect via Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram, Snapchat, and etc. we still never connected. Hearing from someone who was not constantly connected to the web and staring at screens all day gave me a sense of hope; we aren’t doomed after all.

This experience would have never manifested if I had decided to do the same as other. If I had decided that going to Mexico to get drunk was a good idea, I would not have learned the value of getting out there and helping others. I learned that trying new things and helping others was not tough, but necessary. Fresno a city hit with hard times: many people are unemployed or on assistance programs. If others learned to come together for the rest of Fresno, things might begin to improve.

This experience with Alternative Spring Break gave my passion for helping others a direction. I was no longer afraid of joining an organization I was not familiar with. After this experience I became more involved in a local food pantry called the Bulldog Pantry. Today I am one of the board members for the organization. Without the invaluable experience I gained from Alternative Spring Break I would be another 25 year old without a real connection to those around me.

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