The Significance of ASB

After participating in ASB, students have provided feedback on what they have learned during the trip. Please take time to read through student testimonials below.

“People who are homeless or on welfare are often portrayed as lazy and immoral, taking advantage of government handouts. When we see people begging on the street, many of us are taught to ignore them and avoid eye contact. We are taught to fear them. These feelings are so ingrained into our sub consciousness that it is extremely difficult to change them. Even though I knew these stereotypes were incorrect before, my experience on Colby’s Alternative Spring Break trip was integral in helping me break down these images in my consciousness and to feel truly comfortable with the patrons. Through my interactions and conversations with them, I was able to fully recognize that most of these people are not stereotypes, they are not dangerous, or lazy – they are just people. Many of them went to college and are anxious to get back on their feet. Many keep up with politics and enjoyed talking to us about current news. They really appreciated when we looked them in the eyes, said hello, and asked them how they were. In order to break down the stereotypes, you have to have these interactions yourself. That is why the ASB trip is so important.”

~ ASB New York City Participant 2011

“One of the first few days on ASB, I sat down with a middle aged woman in a soup kitchen. What started as a conversation about the food we had served her turned to a conversation about nutrition and homelessness and then progressed to a detailed description of her nights sleeping cramped and upright on a chair, and her days tugging her suitcase along through the ice, since it can’t be kept for her at the soup kitchen. I learned about her troubled relationship with her children and her current struggle to pay for the last test in her training to be a medical assistant. In between a plate of reheated tomato pasta and a man with an unusually long mustache, a woman I’ll never know the name of emptied herself of her troubles and by handing a few to me, allowed me to understand a little piece of what life is like for the New York homeless population.

Each night we sat down around a makeshift dinner table and discussed the day and how our experiences could be extrapolated into more general discussions of homelessness, its creation and eradication. I was impressed by the depth of insight and the intelligence of the solutions proposed; I was in a group of truly dedicated and passionate individuals. We debated the different approaches to tackling homelessness that we found at each kitchen, and unanimously commended a well-run organization on the upper west side for coupling a good pantry with free culinary, meditation, and exercise classes and workshops on tax forms and jobs. It was suggested that perhaps one of the best way to pull people out of poverty is simply to familiarize guests with all of the programs and resources available so they can learn to help themselves, an “if you teach a man how to fish” approach if you will.

We went on the trip with an extremely limited budget and because of this, ate the same congealed pasta for five days, slept on a basement floor, donned the same clothes daily and carried our belongings with us across the city in bitter cold. What seemed like a bit of bad financial planning on our parts became one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip: we lived similarly to the homeless we were serving.

A series of fortuitous events allowed us intimate conversations with the guests we served and productive discussions within our ASB group about the social, educational, and mental causes of homelessness; living a light version of the homeless experience pushed sympathy into a realm of empathy. A week of intensive exposure and thought, ASB was not only a beautiful tour of New York, but a powerful reconsideration of stereotype, perspective and possibility.

~ ASB New York City Participant 2011

“ASB was a wonderful experience, not only did I visit a new place and meet new Colby people, but I met new people that I would not have met any other way. Participating in this program has changed the way I view poverty and charity work.”

~ ASB New York (Urban) Participant 2012

“I feel so appreciative to be on one of the ASB trips. I met other Colby students, we talked and shared our experiences, and I’ve learned so much from them. This is one of my most awesome experiences and I’m so proud of what we’ve done this week.”

~ ASB New York (Urban/Suburban) Participant 2012

“As we finished eating, we dove into a conversation about the people begging on the street. Should you give them money? Food? Nothing at all? …. I think conversations like that are some of the most rewarding parts of trips like this.”

~ ASB New York (Urban/Suburban) Participant 2012

“ASB-Nicaragua was a wonderful opportunity to participate in a community development project. Living in the community in which we worked allowed us to share conversations and experiences with the people we were serving and develop relationships. The Bridges to Community program challenged us to view the world as it is, as a place in which perfect solutions to the urgent social, environmental, and health problems faced around the globe do not exist. However, it also offered hope in its empowering charge to us to seriously consider the ways we can use our education and resources to have a positive impact on our neighbors around the world, whether they live in Waterville, Nindirí, or beyond.”

~ ASB Nicaragua Participant 2012

At Colby, I truly believe that we intend for the education we receive within the confines of our campus to go out into the world. We expect Colby students to be citizens of the world, and we try to live up to this expectation by offering study abroad programs in foreign countries. However, Colby College does not offer any chances for Colby students to volunteer abroad, to actually get our hands dirty and help our greater global community. While learning in a university in another country, one may learn a great deal, but try sending a student to a town in a foreign country, untouched by the economic advances that a university brings to any given city. You would be fooling yourself if you thought it would be [the] same experience. My experience in Nicaragua this past spring break not only gave me the chance to meet and work with amazing people, but together, we also helped build a school that will …[give] impoverished children the chance to learn. Leaving the community, I felt so proud to be a part of the project because I knew the work we did actually made a huge difference for some of the children in Nicaragua.”

~ ASB Nicaragua Participant 2012

“Having the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with a group of my classmates to do service work was by far the most fulfilling, culturally enriching, and worthwhile spring break[s] that I have ever had.”

~ ASB Nicaragua Participant 2012

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