Students use their spring break to help refugees

BLOOMINGTON – On March 7-16, Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington students took an alternative approach to their spring break by traveling to France to assist refugees, as well as to immerse themselves in art, history, and culture. Current events led program directors to consider how to help college students better understand and appreciate the significance of growing ethical and political issues surrounding the displacement of families around the world.

Alternative Spring Break (ASB) students represented a variety of age groups and fields of study, with most having almost no travel experience. The program was entirely funded through civic engagement funds from the Ivy Tech Foundation, with the goal to provide students a unique opportunity to develop their global awareness.

Student volunteers organized a donation drive at Ivy Tech and were able to bring four suitcases full of clothing and personal products for refugees. The students spent their first days in the port city of Calais, which plays an important role in the movement of migrants through Europe. While there, they prepared tea and meals, mended clothing and blankets, scrubbed shoes, gathered firewood, and organized donations. They worked alongside volunteers from the United Kingdom, France, and elsewhere, and learned about the practical concerns of asylum-seekers, and about the lives of others from around the world.

Students then traveled to Paris to make more intercultural observations as they visited the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou and the Palace of Versailles.

“The group ate lots of pastries and great food, listened to musicians playing violins and accordions for the morning metro rush, bought hats from a chapelier, fed pigeons outside Notre-Dame, laughed a lot and cried a little—and in the end, made friends while learning about themselves as they lived, worked, walked, and traveled together,” said Jerry Hansen III, assistant professor, department of fine arts, and ASB program director.

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