By Jonah Brunet
For many university goers, spring break is a chance to jet off on a sunny retreat and spend the days in a permanent state of drunken debauchery. But a group of Ryerson students are choosing a more charitable alternative.
On April 29, 20 students from the volunteer organization Alternative Spring Break will be traveling to Uganda. The trip, which will last the entire month of May, is focused on helping the community in the village of Villa Maria.
“Everybody wants to go down south, so let’s make it meaningful,” said Christina Tachtampa, the trip coordinator. “It’s affordable and it’s different—it’s not just about going to the beach and having a drink, it’s about actually learning from the locals.”
Alternative Spring Break is a student-run initiative that began at Ryerson in 2006. Former students Brianne Cole and Robyn Wisken teamed up with history professor Arne Kislenko to offer others a chance to vacation with purpose.
Since Tachtampa joined Alternative Spring Break in 2010, she has travelled as far as Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam.
Although this year’s volunteers plan to help Villa Maria with various projects, including the reconstruction of a health clinic, Tachtampa believes the trip will have a larger impact elsewhere.
“I still keep contact with all the families that have hosted us,” she said. “And I know that it’s not life-changing for them, but for the students it can be life-changing.”
Tachtampa changed her major from fashion to history after traveling with Alternative Spring Break and said the experience has been similarly inspirational for other volunteers.
First-time Alternative Spring Break volunteer Cameron MacDonald also thinks there are benefits for student volunteers.
“It’s a learning experience for us, just being exposed to a new culture,” he said.
The trip may not be until the end of the school year, but the program is a year-long commitment. Interested students must apply in September and fundraising events take place throughout the year.
Alternative Spring Break has raised money for the Uganda trip through bake sales, movie nights and caroling. Their most recent event, which happened on March 26, was a silent auction that included items like a Toronto Raptors jersey signed by the entire team and a Leafs stick signed by Jeremy Reimer.