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September 21, 2023

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Students travel fall break for community service, aid others

Recreating a homeless experience and living on food stamps might not seem like much of a vacation to most, but sophomore Matt Henkes chose to do it anyway.

Henkes, a film production major, chose to take an alternative fall break to Cincinnati through the BG Alternative Breaks [bGAB] program.

The trip was one of three alternative breaks offered through bGAB, including a trip to Detroit and a trip to Chicago.

The Cincinnati trip focused on poverty and community development, Henkes said.

“The trip was heavily education based,” he said. “We did a poverty simulation with food stamps, took a trip to the Hamilton County Justice Center to learn about incarceration and visited the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.”

Henkes said the food stamp experience was very eye opening for him.

“It was very difficult to eat healthy,” he said. “ [Over-the-Rhine] is somewhat of a ‘food desert’. There’s only one Kroger grocery store so many people have to rely on food they can get at gas stations and convenience stores. Many of the people we worked with didn’t have access to a car so they had to consider ‘how much food can I carry home myself.’”

When he actually got the food, he didn’t realize how bad it actually was.

“The food we could get with food stamps was really limited and disgusting,” he said.

Besides the food stamp experiment, Henkes remembers the people he met on the trip.

“We met a man and asked him if he needed anything. He asked us if we wanted to see some pictures and we figured he meant, pictures of his family. Instead he showed them some really good drawings he done, caricatures of famous people. It was really surprising,” he said.

Dakota Patton, a junior human development and family studies major, and Malcolm McAlpine, a senior visual communication technology major, chose to take their alternative break in Chicago, visiting the St. Thomas of Canterbury Soup kitchen.

“It wasn’t like what most people think of soup kitchens,” Patton said, “There wasn’t a big line with people lining up to have soup plopped in their bowls. It was actually organized like a restaurant, with the volunteers serving the homeless like waiters. It made the people who were there for food feel like they were human.”

McAlpine also helped with the soup kitchen. There he met a woman that had been volunteering at various shelters for the last seven years.

“She told me that if she’s not helping others, she’d just feel weird. It was her way of connecting with the community,” McAlpine said.

Maddi Georgoff, a senior Spanish major and founder of the group, went on the Detroit trip.

The Detroit trip focused on trying to help revitalize the city as well as the people still living there.

Georgoff worked with a group called the Motor City Blight Busters that restores or destroys old abandoned buildings and create things like community gardens.

“[The Blight Busters] are trying to create a positive space for the community,” Georgoff said.

The trip allowed Georgoff to see the changes that are happening in Detroit.

“A lot of people think that Detroit has nothing going for it but it actually has a lot going for it,” Georgoff said. “I felt like I became an advocate for Detroit. That’s kind of the point of [bGAB], we want you to become advocates for the community you served.”

bGAB has 5 trips planned for the upcoming Spring Break. The locations have yet to be determined. If you’d like to sign up for an alternative break for next spring, there will be a form posted on the group’s OrgSync page. The expected fee for the trip is $190.

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