The average college student eagerly awaits spring break. They plan for weeks and dream of warm weather, partying, and relaxing on white sandy beaches. For 25 members of the U of M Rotaract club, while the weather will be warm, building bathrooms and removing invasive species will be the tasks at hand. 15 students traveled to El Porvenir, Honduras to build bathrooms in areas where basic sanitation is lacking. Ten students stayed closer to home, traveling to New Orleans to remove invasive species and plant new vegetation in order to help protect the Louisiana wetlands.
In El Porvenir, the Rotaractors worked with the non-profit organization Honduras Child Alliance (HCA). HCA works to empower youth by providing them with resources and education in English, technology, hygiene, and other life skills. Throughout our time there, we worked with volunteer contractors on three different projects to help improve the quality of life for children in the community.
First, we spent the weekend remodeling a playground that had been worn down and was not safe for children to play on. New equipment and vibrant paint brought smiles to the students’ faces when they arrived back at school on Monday.
Our other two projects included a great deal of concrete and hard labor in the hot sun. At one of HCA’s locations, we built an outdoor classroom space attached to the existing structure, allowing them to cater to twice as many students at once. Secondly, as part of HCA’s “Building Baños” project, we were able to build a stand-alone latrine-style bathroom for a family in the community whose bathroom previously was simply in the dirt on the side of the house. By the end of the week, we had finished both of these projects and were able to leave knowing that our work would have a lasting impact. Coming back to Ann Arbor, students have a broader world view and inspiration to continuing making a difference in our community.
For a more detailed description of the Rotaractor’s work in Honduras, read their trip blog.
Spring Break in the Wetlands
This year’s domestic spring break took ten Rotaractors to New Orleans to work on wetlands restoration with Common Ground Relief in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward. A few of the days were spent in their nursery, potting 2,000 cypress saplings and irises. The other days were spent on Bayou Bienvenue, planting button bush, cypress, and California bulrush in the marshes. We learned the story behind Common Ground Relief and their efforts to help rebuild the Lower Ninth after Hurricane Katrina and protect Louisiana from further wetland loss. Speakers came to dinner to talk about their experiences during Katrina, including Kim Rivers, the woman behind the Academy Award nominated documentary “Trouble the Water.”
Rotaractors are uncommon students, putting service to the environment and those less fortunate above themselves. Our club has supported and mentored this group for the past 14 years since its founding and every year they have planned trips such as these during U of M’s spring break. Without the generous support of our club and individual members, these opportunities for service would not be possible. On behalf of all of our uncommon Rotaractors, thank you.