The Wesley Fellowship is just one of several faith-based groups at CU that plan annual Spring Break mission trips. In past years, CU students from groups like Campus Ambassadors and The Annex have traveled to a Navajo reservation, Jamaica, Belize and Costa Rica. On top of that, as many as 200 students take Spring Break trips each year through secular groups such as Alternative Breaks, a program organized by the CU Volunteer Resource Center.
To get involved in future trips, or for more information, visit colorado.edu/vrc
For some students, spring break is a time to relax. For others, it's a time to dig a 60-foot well by hand. By choice.
Spring break mission trips are a nearly 50-year tradition for students at the Wesley Fellowship, a University of Colorado United Methodist group. After digging wells in Ecuador, cleaning up rubble from Hurricane Katrina and building an orphanage in Guatemala, the students will now face their most daunting mission trip yet: a trip to Haiti, where the country is still ravaged from the 2010 earthquake that killed thousands of people and left thousands more homeless.
"We were supposed to go to Haiti this time last year, but the situation on the ground was so dicey," said pastor Roger Wolsey. "There was political instability and cholera was spreading. I didn't think it was a good time to send students there."
Although the situation has improved, the Haiti trip will be challenging because of a combination of changing conditions and fewer resources. They plan to help install a water pump and help rebuild a school, but can only complete the project if other aid organizations are able to bring the right tools and resources. The group will have to be flexible, have faith and help where it's needed, he said.
The Wesley Fellowship will work with Her Many Voices, a Boulder-based aid group that helps Haiti's women and children through clean drinking water and education initiatives.
Alicia Fall, Her Many Voices' founder, said flexibility is key in Haiti. She learned that lesson during her last trip, when blocked roads, bad weather and poor health conditions meant she had to rethink her trip priorities and redistribute supplies.
"It's important that when you go to areas like that, you let go of any outcomes and expectations, otherwise you can experience a string of disappointments," she said.
The nine students on the trip have taken a lead on planning details in order to have the smoothest possible trip. They have connected with Creole-speaking residents in Boulder to learn the language and coordinated plans with Her Many Voices.
Along with flexibility and language skills, Wolsey said he hopes the students learn more about the country's people and spirituality.
"Some of the students have seen destruction first-hand after Hurricane Katrina, but this is different," Wolsey said. "In Haiti, there's still rubble on the street as if a day had not gone by since the earthquake. It will be the closest to a war zone that these students have seen."
Fall retold the bone-chilling stories she heard from their interpreter, Guy Calixte, who used his bare hands to dig out family members after the earthquake.
Yet amid destruction, Fall said the people she met in Haiti carried a strong sense of hope and an eye for the small joys of life.
"God has given us another day, so you work with what you got," Calixte told her. "We got things to do."
Wolsey said the Haitians' outlook will be an important example for the Wesley Fellowship's students. Though they are a Christian organization, Wolsey said the students plan to do more listening than ministering during their trip.
"There is a lot of joy in the country despite the desperate circumstances," he said. "I think that will give students some perspective and empower them. There's a lot to learn."