Five minutes from campus, and thousands of miles from Manchester, Saint Anselm students are spending their spring break in service and solidarity with those less fortunate. Nine trips are spread out across the United States, while one group works in Los Chiles, Costa Rica. Throughout the week, participants learn about Catholic social teaching while spending time living and working with those most in need. Whether building a home, working with disadvantaged populations, or ministering through the simple act of presence, Anselmians continue a twenty-two year tradition started with a single trip to Orland, Maine which has grown to now accommodate trips during spring, summer and winter breaks.
Service & Solidarity: Spring Break Alternative – Follow along with regular updates and photos from the ten SBA trips on the Service & Solidarity blog, managed by the Office of Campus Ministry.
In the shadow of Manchester's Millyard, and only blocks from City Hall, we visited with Manchester's participants who were pausing briefly from their work for lunch, purchased with the equivalent of a day's worth of food stamps. In spite of the fact that each participant is entitled to about $3 per day, they quickly offered a seat at the table, and a sandwich to their fellow Anselmian stopping in to hear about their week thus far. The group has elected to participate in this challenge in solidarity with those who live on such a budget day to day, and ate a simple lunch of PB&J and fruit.
2012 Spring Break Alternative sites: Aberdeen, Mississippi; Manchester, New Hampshire; New Orleans, Louisiana; Orland, Maine; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Phoenix, Arizona; Ridgley, Maryland; San Jose, Costa Rica; Springhill, Louisiana and Tuba City, Arizona
At the conclusion of lunch, the group delegated afternoon responsibilities among the team: some would proceed to a laundromat to facilitate the cleaning of an apartment worth of garments and linens. Others would continue the rehabilitation of an unit within the complex, while the remainder of the group awaited the afternoon arrival of fifteen-or-more children for an afternoon of coloring, mentoring and playing. We followed the team that would continue to rehab the apartment up two flights of narrow stairs to a simply furnished third-floor apartment where the team had spent the morning working to address health and safety compliance issues.
Following a morning of scrubbing, steam cleaning and sorting, the apartment's tenant warmly greeted each member of the team back with a gentle smile. As the students returned to work, he stood nearby ready to offer his assistance as two participants outlined their goals for the afternoon. Although a subtle odor lingered in the unit, open windows and a cacophony of cleaning solutions indicated the ongoing efforts of the group. During our visit, fresh mattress liners were unpacked, and the stove was reassembled.
Dan Forbes, director of the Meelia Center for Community Engagement described the injustice faced by the family which would ultimately bring them to Manchester. The extended family that calls this unit home has fled two genocides, relocating upwards of three times before coming to call Manchester their latest home.
Back downstairs, the sound of laughter and play reverberated through the dimly lit hallway. Children, including some "alumni" of the complex — those who have moved on, but occasionally come back to visit — were amassing in the common room where an after school program is offered. Children sat at a small table, diligently coloring, while others took advantage of the opportunity to braid an SBA participant's hair. One boy arrived in the door asking if he could come in and do his homework, while others were quizzed on their alphabets with flashcards.
Tonight, the group plans to share dinner with residents of the apartment complex.