Known on campus mainly for their academic strengths, more than a dozen hard-working ICB students set aside their laptops and spent their spring break helping underserved families in a neighboring state. As part of the University of Colorado Denver Alternative Spring Break program, the Chinese students joined their American peers in traveling to Albuquerque, where they devoted a week to working at Joy Junction, the largest homeless shelter in New Mexico, or in Santa Fe, to help at the Santa Fe Community Farm, a non-profit organization that donates its produce to The Food Depot, a local food bank.
Serving meals to homeless families, organizing food trailers, painting offices, producing a kids’ carnival, and delivering lunches on the “lifeline truck” were all part of the students’ activities. Optimism, not despair, is what the ICB students took away from the Albuquerque experience.
“Homeless people are just people who have suffered more misfortune,” said economics major Zhuo Zeng. “They can still have a good life.” Her colleague Shiyao Cao added, “If everyone gives a hand to the world, it will really make a difference.”
Meanwhile in Santa Fe, in addition to divvying up one ton of potatoes at a local food bank, students worked the soil on a farm and in a teaching garden at an elementary school. Student Yi Wang commented, “Even though I was very tired, I still felt happy; I did a lot of farming jobs that I have never done.” Her classmate Yaqi Zhu said, “When you do the work with love and faith, you think it is not that hard.”
The excursion provided many “firsts” for the ICB students. Menglin Cui noted that this was her first time to be a volunteer in a foreign country, the first time to help and talk to homeless people, and “the first time to sleep in a sleeping bag”!
Particularly at CU Denver, the level of staff involvement and student enthusiasm provide a defining experience for participants in the student volunteer program. For many ICB students, it serves as one of their most valuable life-lessons.
“Through the process of helping people in need, I started to care more about others. I also got to know more about myself while learning to find love in a world of chaos,” said Bo Li, economics student.
Alternative spring and winter breaks are co-sponsored by Student Life and the Experiential Learning Center. Learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org.