Alternative Spring Breaks
In Their Own Words...
It is hard to put into words, but my experience with the participants from Hillel spring breaks was great. The week we spent together was helpful in getting to know a new culture, but still knowing that we share the same roots and are part of the same family. It doesn't matter where we all come from, the important thing is being able to share this experience together.
-- Hillel Argentina participant Fabiana Jafif
This trip has been one of the most phenomenal, inspiring, and eye-opening experiences in my life. The cultural exchange, community service and Jewish education were invaluable. I've learned so much about the Favelas and the politcal and social issues. Now I feel like I have the power to make a difference and bring about real change.
-- University of Michigan student Matt Wald, Trip to Brazil
Everything we did was exciting and moving. Each day seemed progressively better with new highs as we accomplished the goals of impacting the community.
-- University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign student Emilie Botbol, Trip to Uruguay
Throughout this spring, over a dozen North American Hillels traveled to South America on Alternative Spring Breaks. These week-long trips exposed students first-hand to the power of Tzedek, global Jewish peoplehood and cultural exchange, and opened the eyes and minds of both the student volunteers and the communities they helped.
In this special edition of Passport, we take a closer look at these experiences and reveal the lasting impressions left by these seven special days. For more background on the trips themselves, see the prior Passport article, "Students Head South to Make a Difference."
Hillel Students Publish Experiences in Local and National MediaHeadline Number 4Hillel's Campus Programs Maintain Ties to Local Communities
Inspired by the power of their trips, many students wrote articles sharing their stories of community and personal growth. These moving accounts were published in a variety of media and illustrate that there is no better voice to tell this story than the students themselves.
• Jon Brandt, a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst, published his account "Alternative Spring Break: Building Houses in Uruguay" in the popular travel website GoNomad.com.
• Vanderbilt student David Silverstein shared his story in the school's online student community InsideVandy.com in "Changing lives from Vanderbilt to Uruguay."
• Jessica Feiwas, also a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, profiled her experience "Building and bonding on a visit to Uruguay" in the New Jersey Jewish News.
Many Hillel students returned from their Alternative Spring Breaks inspired to continue improving the communities they visited. In just the few weeks since the trips, already a number of Hillels have planned follow-up programs to raise money for and awareness of the community issues they encountered.
• Students at UMass-Amherst Hillel have committed to raising $1,000, the coast of building a home for Un Techo para mi Pais (A Roof for My Country), the organization tehy worked with in Uruguay. Their recent "Goods and Services Auction" raised $300 and they hope to raise the rest through an upcoming trivia night at a local bar and their "Tye Dye for Techo" fundraiser.
• Participants in University of Maryland's Alternative Break to Rioi gathered a few weeks after the trip to share a fun-filled Shabbat dinner including Brazilian cuisine and songs learned at the synagogues of Rio. Students discussed their ongoing commitment to providing aid to impoverished communities in Brazil and continue to be in touch with the South American friends they met during the trip.
• Proceeds from this year's Yale Hillel Breadfest at the end of Passover also went to support Un Techo in Uruguay. Additionally, the Hillel held a campus discussion entitled "Fighting Poverty by Empowering Communities" where students had the opportunity to discuss sustainable development and community empowerment with participants from the Hillel trip to Uruguay and other alternative break trips from Yale. Students went away with new information about how they can get involved in the global fight against poverty.
Learn More About Hillel's Alternative Spring Breaks
In addition to trips to South America, many Hillels spent their Spring Breaks in the Gulf Coast, helping to repair the damage that still affects much of New Orleans. Here, students share their experiences:
One Student's Letter
University of Maryland students help out in the nursery at Meninos de Luz school in the impoverished Rio de Janeiro, Brazil community of Pavao.
Yale University students work with members of the local community in Montevideo, Uruguay to build a house for a homeless family with Un Techo Para Mi Pais (A Roof for My Country).
Michigan State University students show off the mural they designed and painted for the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.