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WATCH: UC Student-Founded Organization Provides A World of Service

UC’s Serve Beyond Cincinnati completes seven different trips over the winter break.

Date: 1/9/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Provided by Serve Beyond Cincinnati

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The University of Cincinnati student experience doesn’t come to a halt over semester breaks. Dozens of UC students spent part of their winter break continuing their studies around the world, while more than 50 members of a student organization – founded at UC – traveled the world and the United States to offer service such as building stoves, visiting children in an orphanage and bringing cheer to children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Students with UC’s Serve Beyond Cincinnati organization traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador and to Haiti, as well as to Georgia, Florida and Louisiana last month. UC students created Serve Beyond Cincinnati in 2007 to fuel the passion of a civic-minded generation by providing service opportunities for UC students. Costs of the trips are supported through student fundraising.

Here’s a wrap-up of Serve Beyond Cincinnati’s winter travels:

El Salvador – Nine UC students spent five days working on building housing for families. The cost of the trip per student was $1,500. “Our UC group was given the opportunity to work with another service group of 12 students from UCLA ,” says communication major Natalie Cass, a UC senior from Galion, Ohio. “The two groups came together to complete the desired tasks given by the Fuller Center for Housing.

“We also traveled with two suitcases full of children’s clothes that we had the chance to donate to a group of children at a nearby daycare,” says Cass. “The look of happiness in their eyes was enough to make anyone want to keep giving. Beyond our experience working on the housing project and interacting with local children, we were also able to do some sightseeing of the beautiful El Salvador countryside. We visited a volcano, went zip-lining, traveled to the point where we got to see a 360-degree view of San Salvador, and we even got to see the Mayan ruins at a nearby site. It was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” says Cass.

Guatemala – Twelve UC students participated in building 10 stoves for families in rural areas. The cost of the trip per student was $1,500. The students stayed at a local convent. They also visited the market in Antigua. “It was a wonderful chance for all of us to work together not only to provide families with a necessary tool for daily life, but also to establish meaningful relationships, especially with the children,” says graphic design major Katie Carrothers, a fourth-year student from Western Hills. “Along the way, our team became a close-knit family united by one common goal of service. I couldn’t think of a more rewarding way to spend a winter break.”

“Guatemala has always been a special place for me,” says communication sciences and disorders senior Megan McDonald of Western Hills, Ohio, who has traveled to an orphanage in Chimaltenango, Guatemala each year since 2008. “I enjoyed this trip because it gave me a broader view of the country, the culture and the poverty. On this trip, I saw the places where the children from the orphanage came from, and working in these areas was a humbling experience.”

Croix Des Bouquets, Haiti – Eight UC students discovered that the region remains ravaged by the earthquake that struck Haiti in January, 2010. The cost of the trip per student was $1,500. Students helped build a house for a family and visited an orphanage, where the children sang a song for them in Creole and English. “Our trip was unlike anything I expected. I made seven great friends who became family to me by the end of the week,” says communication sciences and disorders major Julie Rettig, a UC senior from the Pleasant Ridge area of Cincinnati. “This trip came at a great time for us because not only did we get away from the cold, but we also learned the true meaning of what the holiday season is all about.”

Other student members on the trip were Lauren Bruns, Phil Riazi (who gave a pair of his shoes to a Haitian construction worker), Kelsey Roat, Kevin Gilliland, Meredith Schreiber (who brought hundreds of toothbrushes for the orphanage children), Michael Knadler and Kareem Aladimi. As they departed Haiti, Rettig says the group donated their belongings to the family they assisted and to the orphanage. “The eight of us were overwhelmed with the joy that this whole experience brought us, and we’ll continue to carry that feeling with us for the rest of our lives,” says Rettig.

Americus, Ga. – Seven students spent five days in the region, working on housing construction projects in partnership with the Fuller Center for Housing. Cost of the trip per student was $300.

Orlando, Fla. – Nine students traveled to Disney World’s Give the Kids the World, a non-profit resort for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Service included assisting food service, entertainment (including volunteering at pony rides, as Kelsey Pace is seen doing in the above video) and landscaping operations. “This trip made such an impact on me that I’m going back (with Serve Beyond Cincinnati) for spring break,” says Jessica Nelson, a third-year criminal justice major from Columbus, Ohio. “I was amazed at how these kids with illnesses still have fun and are so carefree, even though they are battling a disease. At Give the Kids the World, they feel like they get to have their dreams come true, and seeing the smiles on their faces made it all worth it.”

Webster Parish, La. – Seven students spent five days working on home construction in partnership with the Fuller Center for Housing. The cost of the trip was $300 per student. “Nothing refreshes and replenishes my spirit like serving others, so a week of serving strangers was exactly what I needed,” says secondary education senior Melanie Laiveling of Delhi, Ohio. “It was a great way to prepare myself for Christmas and a great escape after a long semester.”

Other students on the trip were Melissa Zapf, Matt Brown, Keri Stenger, Liz Chambliss, Corrine Aponte and Abbie Humbert.

The organization’s service trips over spring break will include revisiting Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Americus, Ga., Webster Parish, La. and Orlando, as well as include trips to Mexico and Nicaragua. In addition, a group is planning to take part in the Natchez Trace Parkway Bike Adventure to raise money for Fuller Center projects around the world. It’s a 400-mile bike ride down the Natchez Trace Parkway, ending in Jackson, Miss.

Serve Beyond Cincinnati website

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