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Spring break gives FREEDOM perspective

Spring Break is right around the corner, and students across campus have begun dreaming about tropical getaways and relaxing vacations.

But while some students are planning their perfect week-long paradise, others are preparing for seven days spent building a house for an impoverished family and learning about political refugees.

Beginning the Friday before Spring Break, the students involved in the social justice group FREEDOM will embark on their week-long trip to South Texas and Mexico while their peers head off to the beach.

‘We’re going to be learning about how people are creating communities with many different cultures working together without damaging any of the traditions associated with them,’ FREEDOM member Gabrielle Chapman said. ‘We’ll be taking what we learn and bringing it back here.’

The non-hierarchal group, which calls for the promotion of social justice, cultural awareness and the art of human expression, will be collaborating with the Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries in South Texas.

While there, students will attend a series of workshops about political refugees, political and cultural relations between the U.S. and Mexico and the social and economic conditions of border cities and refugee neighborhoods.

‘The issues we will be discussing are all very important ones that affect [the Texan and Mexican] people on a personal level,’ President Rachel Sample said. ‘As of right now, I’m not really sure what those concepts mean, and through this trip we’re going to learn about these issues and be able to take them back to BGSU with us in order to make a difference.’

And though students will be engaging in conversation about the issues being discussed, they will also have the opportunity to participate in experiential and service-learning opportunities.

‘I know one of the topics being discussed will be about the controversy surrounding the proposed international fence on the U.S. and Mexican border,’ Sample said. ‘After the discussion, we will be visiting areas where the fence is supposed to be built in order to understand what we’re talking about.’

Similarly, in order for the group to fully experience the social and economic conditions of refugee neighborhoods, members will be visiting an impoverished neighborhood and a children’s home in Mexico.

While there, they will help members of SWGSM build a casita, or ‘little house’ for a poor area family.

‘The house they build will be very small – only one room – and far from the homes that these students grew up in,’ FREEDOM advisor Bill Thompson said. ‘That house will be more than those people have right now though, and that will make the difference.’

During their time spent in the deserts of South Texas, the students will live much like the residents of the towns they are visiting. Regular amenities like daily showers and regular meals will be limited.

‘We take for granted so much, like running water and food and shelter,’ Sample said. ‘Not having those is essential on this trip because it makes you realize what you have and why others might not have it.’

However, after spending time in impoverished and dilapidated Mexican cities, the members will then pack up and head to Padre Island, a well-known and popular resort site. The location change will work to contrast the poverty experienced in Mexico with nearby American wealth.

‘The change from one place to another is really going to show how [unfair] and terrible this situation is,’ Sample said. ‘People are living 20 to 30 miles away in wealth and are not doing anything for those living in poverty. It’s very disheartening.’

And though the groups’ trip may be far removed from the paradise most college students experience during Spring Break, many take away memories that cannot be replaced by late nights and partying.

‘I like to call these trips transformative because it entails students confronting someone who comes from another culture and causes them to think about what’s important in their life,’ Thompson said. ‘It motivates them to do something meaningful and life is all about doing things to make the world better for all people.’

Similarly, students who have participated in one of the three previous trips with FREEDOM feel the experience is a monumental one.

‘These trips have changed my life,’ said Sample, who also went to the South Bronx this fall. ‘They renew the sense of connection on a large field and make you realize that with that connection we have to act in order to make a difference.’

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