Final Travel Update – Winter Break Alternative 2015

All groups are back on campus! Winter Break Alternative 2015 is complete – and yet it has really just begun. It was wonderful welcoming back all these students, seeing their bright and smiling faces, and hearing their great stories. We look forward to the days to come as our participants continue to unpack this experience.

Saint Anselm College, Winter Break Alternative, Habitat for Humanity

While we waited for our last group to return, Appalachia, the groups shared stories, played games, participated in sing-alongs, and had a dance party. Here are the the final updates:

Appalachia: Our last group to arrive, came into the Cushing Center singing a John Denver classic – and were greeted by participants from all of the other 7 trips who were troopers all exhausted but joyously welcomed this last group home.

Camden: Made it back to campus at 6:15 – a very spirited group, tons of joy and energy!

D.R.: Has arrived home – happy to be back, adjusting to the drastic temperature change, and bursting with wonderful stories from N.P.H.!

D.C.: This group arrived around 7:30 p.m. and went straight to the welcome back party – hungry but full of spirit, playing games, sharing stories and laughter.

Habitat: Made good time arriving just after 6 o'clock. Thrilled to be home and proud to share the many stories of using power tools and meeting the wonderful folks of Cumberland Habitat.

Maine: Arrived at 2 p.m. They are thrilled to be home, and all enjoyed being able to take a long hot shower!

Manchester: Had a wonderful week. They were back on campus at 1:30 Saturday afternoon.

NOLA: Arrived in Manchester after 7:15 p.m. Greeted by the cold but excited to be home. They were happy to watch the end of the Patriots game on campus as they watched most of the game in the Baltimore airport.

Latest Update on WBA Travel

Trips have begun to arrive back on campus! Here are the latest updates:

Appalachia: Is in Pennsylvania on 287 North. Don't worry I have promised to text Colin updates on the Pats game (he assures me a non-driver will be looking at his phone!)

Camden: Is two hours out, and expected on campus by 6:30 p.m.

D.R.: Has arrived home – happy to be back, adjusting to the drastic temperature change, and bursting with wonderful stories from N.P.H.!

Saint Anselm College, Winter Break Alternative, Dominican Republic

D.C.: Taking a break in Connecticut, and expects to arrive around 7:30 p.m.

Habitat: En-route, and expected by 7 p.m.

Maine: Arrived at 2 p.m. They are thrilled to be home, and all enjoyed being able to take a long hot shower!

Manchester: Had a wonderful week. They were back on campus at 1:30 this afternoon.

NOLA: Has arrived in Baltimore, and anxiously await their flight to Manchester.

WBA Travel Updates: Groups Heading Home

All groups are en-route back to campus. Please keep our students in your prayers for their journey home. We also ask you to keep the agencies and those they serve in your prayers. These dedicated staffs will continue to do important work to meet the needs of the most vulnerable of our society.

Appalachia: Our group from West Virginia left Nazareth Farm after a wonderful week of service. They departed at 10:30 and have a 10-12 hour drive ahead of them.

Saint Anselm College, Winter Break Alternative, Appalachia

Camden: This group departed at 10:45 and have a 7-8 hour drive. They had an amazing week at the Romero Center.

Saint Anselm College, Winter Break Alternative, Camden

D.C.: Our group left the Capital at 8 a.m. to start their 10 hour drive back to the hilltop. Spirits were high after a wonderful week.

D.R.: Our group in the Dominican Republic was up bright and early at 2 a.m. to make the trip to the airport. They have successfully completed the first leg of their journey, landing in Newark earlier this morning. They had an easy time going through customs, had lunch, and are now waiting for their 1:40 p.m. flight to Manchester.

Saint Anselm College, Winter Break Alternative, Dominican Republic

Habitat: Our Vineland, N.J. group was up and on the road by 9:30 this a.m. They have between an 8-9 hour drive ahead of them. The group enjoyed touring Atlantic City last night, and are now excited to share many wonderful stories with all of us.

Maine: 25 years of successful service in Orland, ME! Our group braved the cold, bonded with one another, and met some wonderful people at H.O.M.E. They departed at 8:30 this morning for their 4-5 hour drive back to campus. They should be back just in time to help pick-up D.R. from the airport!

Manchester: Has had a wonderful week, feeling like they were miles away from campus. Friday night they were on campus briefly, holding a final reflection in the Multi-faith Prayer room. The will return to campus by 2 o'clock so they can also help with the D.R. pick-up!

NOLA: Our New Orleans group is boarding their first flight of the day. They are headed to Baltimore, then to Manchester this evening.  Another group with a wonderful week!

WBA Groups Head Back To The Hilltop

It's hard to believe that the WBA week is coming to a close! Time certainly has flown by but the impact of this short week on our students will leave its imprint for years to come. We extend our gratitude and appreciation to the many agencies and their staffs that have opened their doors to us this past week. Thank you for your tremendous hospitality. And thank you for the work you do each day in loving service of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are so often forgotten. Your example and continued efforts to recognize the dignity of each person you encounter is awe-inspiring.Saint Anselm College, Winter Break Alternative, Maine

So our groups begin their departures a little more tired than when they left the Hilltop, but with an awareness and a new perspective that we trust will inform, form, and transform them as they unpack from this short week's worth of encounters.

Travel Plans

We expect the first two groups (Maine/Manchester) to be back on campus by 2 p.m.

We pick-up the Dominican Republic trip at the Manchester airport around 3 p.m. Our next 3 groups (Camden/Habitat/DC) will be back between 5-6:30 p.m. Then we head to the Manchester airport to pick-up NOLA at 7 p.m.

Our last trip has a long day ahead of them on the road. Appalachia won't be back on campus until Midnight.

All groups will gather in the North Lounge for a Welcome Back Party – then some rest before the rest of the Anselmian community returns to campus. Big day ahead. Please pray for a safe journey home.

Mid-Week Check-Ins: Part One

Today was an exciting day; I was able to speak with the leaders from each group. So edifying to hear all the wonderful work and experiences our WBA groups are having. The leaders were so enthusiastic about all they were encountering.

My phone rang and I saw that it was Rachel but when I answered the phone I heard a male voice on the other end “Guess who this is?” To my surprise, it was Pat one of the leaders from our Habitat site. I was puzzled and then I remembered that our Habitat trip was making a trip to Philly tonight and guess who they met there – yup our Camden group. They all were out getting Philly cheese steaks!  This call was one of eight, that I received between late last night and this evening. Below, I’ve done my best to capture some of their stories (part one-of-two!)

Appalachia and the D.R. don't have cell phone access, so we don't have photos to share — but rest assured, they are having a wonderful experience, and surely will bring plenty of photos home!


In the hills of West Virginia our group is enjoying the community of Nazareth Farm. The moment they arrived they have been welcomed like family and truly feel the warmth of this loving community. They are enjoying their time with students from Iona College and SUNY Oswego – the three groups building community as together the serve in this depressed region of the United States.  Each day the groups are divided into smaller service work groups.

One group stays at the Farm doing projects on site, cleaning and preparing dinner for all the groups when they return. The other groups are involved in a variety of light construction projects – such as skirting a mobile home, to painting and so on. Early in the week they got about 6 inches of snow, which was a challenge amid the twists and turns of the hilly terrain of Appalachia. The leaders expressed how much they missed the quality plowing of New England, something this West Virginia cannot boast. They gather each evening with all Farm managers, and other groups to have dinner, reflection, and socialize – before they head off to bed to get ready for another busy day of service.


Winter Break Alternative CamdenOur group in Camden is volunteering through the Romero Center and they are joined by three other schools – Fordham University, Assumption College, and Stonehill College. The leaders shared that the emphasis of the week has been to "widen your circle." This is accomplished through service, the ministry of presence, and a blending and bonding of the four schools.

Our group have visited elderly in a local nursing home, worked at a food distribution center, volunteered with children at a daycare for underprivileged children, served at a soup kitchen, and today our group was together volunteering at a house for Adults with significant disabilities. One story they shared was from the nursing home, where two of our students spent some time visiting with and elderly gentleman who has agoraphobia, no family, and real felt lost.  As our students departed he shared with them that their kindness and compassion truly gave him hope, a hope he had not felt in a very long time.

Washington, D.C.

Winter Break Alternative D.C.Cello and Liz were so excited to share their stories at one point I had to slow them down so I could catch what they were saying.  They are truly embracing our nation’s capital, keeping busy each day with service and getting to see the many sites of the capital. This group is working with Food and Friends a large organization that prepares and distributes food throughout the metro area to those who are homebound. Each year this organization prepares and delivers 1.7 million meals!

Our group is humbled to have the privilege of doing their small part in this organizations incredible service to those in need. They are impressed with the personalized care this organization takes to meet the many different dietary needs and restrictions of their clients who may suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDs, or other debilitating illnesses. They enjoy the combination of direct and indirect service spending their mornings preparing food and their afternoons delivering to clients.

On Sunday and In the evenings they have taken advantage of the many offerings of the city they went to the Holocaust Museum, met up with the former Women’s Rugby coach Jesse who gave them a walking tour of the national monuments at night – truly memorable, late this afternoon they were taking the walk all the way up the Washington Monument, tomorrow night they will be hosted by alumnus Marissa Serafino ’12 for dinner, and on Friday they are scheduled to tour the Library of Congress and Capital Building.

In the midst of their week it snowed which for our group of New Englanders was easy to navigate, but most of the city was shut down.  They were pleased that they were able to continue to deliver meals easily regardless of the snow!

Dominican Republic

Jess called late in the day with a number of the boys from the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos anxious to say hello to me, aside from a few short phrases they all enjoyed calling me Plátanos – apparently my story made it to the D.R. this year!  Amid the incredible beauty and the wonderful climate, our group is diving in to the community of the N.P.H. home.

Much of their time is spent organizing games and activities with the children. They have also visited a home for those with special needs, and have worked on site cleaning and working in the kitchen. Tuesday, they had the awesome cultural experience of celebrating the Feast of Three Kings. Their day was filled with activities, Olympic style games, a relay race, and huge dance party.

Wednesday, they began their work in the local community at the Batay, where Haitian refugees live. Here they are assisting in a building project.  They mixed concrete, spread a rock foundation, and were able to get the walls up all in a day’s work. The head foreman of the project was so impressed with our group, he said he had never felt he could trust a group like he did ours, to work on a piece of the project independently, enabling him to start on the next task.

The group has really taken the time to develop good relationships with the children of N.P.H., something the Director has noted as special – he shared that too many groups get caught up in the work and forget the importance of real human connection, something we often take for granted but these children often need so desperately!

All Groups At Their Final Destination!

Sunday was a day of travel for Appalachia and Camden, but for our other trips it’s about getting to know the city/town in which they will serve. Groups attended Mass, toured their communities and got settled in at their host organizations.

Saint Anselm College WBA D.C. at the White House

Camden arrived at their site at 7:30 this evening, tired after a long day of travel but excited to join groups from Assumption College, Fordham University, and Stonehill College at the Romero Center for a week of service.

Appalachia did the bulk of their traveling yesterday. Today they were able to sleep in, do some touring, and complete the final leg of their journey. They arrived at Nazareth Farm just after 8 o'clock through the winding roads of West Virginia and will serve this week alongside Iona College and SUNY Oswego!

All groups have officially arrived safely… Now on to a week of service!

Final Day Of Travel: Almost Complete

Today we saw off Camden, but they were delayed due to the storm that came through overnight. The group departed closer to 11 a.m. and were excited to hit the road. They checked in around 5:30 when they crossed over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. A stop for dinner and a bit more driving in store. [7:30 p.m. update]: Our group has arrived at Romero Center Ministries, and are now settling in alongside other student-volunteers from Assumption, Fordham and Stonehill!

Saint Anselm College WBA Camden departs campus

Appalachia enjoyed sleeping in and touring Cumberland, Maryland, then the group spent the rest of their day off bowling and traveling to West Virginia. They are expected to arrive at Nazareth Farm around 7 p.m. Once they are settled in I will get the call and pass on the good news.

Soon all trips will be at their sites and ready to serve Monday morning!

MORE Travel Updates: Arrivals

It's been an exciting day! Half the trips that departed this morning have arrived at their destination. For these groups travel has gone smoothly and all are in good spirits. More updates to come as our other groups reach their destinations later this afternoon. [See below for 7:30, 9 and 11 p.m. update on additional trips].

Dominican Republic arrived early this afternoon and they are all enjoying the change in temperature! They are now traveling to the children's home Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos where they will spend their week. [9 p.m. update]: The group has arrived at N.P.H., they are settling in, getting some rest after a long day of travel, and enjoying the beauty of the Dominican Republic and their host-site!

Maine has arrived at H.O.M.E.! Our group now joins the long history of Anselmians who have volunteered here. After enjoying some hot chocolate, the group settled in for their week of service! See their group photo, below.

Manchester also arrived mid-day. While this group has the shortest travel in distance their experience working with the refugee resettlement program at the International Institute brings them to an experience quite distant from their own. I enjoyed visiting with them to work through a simulation exercise to help them better hear the voice of those they will serve this week. Soon they will be off to a local Nepalese restaurant in the city.

NOLA arrived in New Orleans mid-day and traveled to their housing location. Now, looking to rest and explore New Orleans.

Updated 7:30 p.m.

D.C. has made their way to Washington and is getting dinner. They will then settle into their housing for the night.

Habitat has arrived in Vineland, N.J., has gotten settled in, and is enjoying dinner!

Appalachia has stopped for dinner and won't get to the hotel until later this evening. [11 p.m. update]: After a long day on the road, Appalachia has arrived at their hotel. They will sleep in on Sunday morning before completing their short drive to Nazareth Farm in West Virginia!

Camden is enjoying one last day on the Hilltop, they will depart on Sunday morning.

Trip Departures Begin

The 25th year of service trips have begun. Six of our eight Winter Break trips are on the road or in the air, en-route to their destinations. Additional updates to come, as groups check in during their travels, or arrive at their host sites throughout the day.

Dominican Republic and NOLA: Met us bright and early at 3 a.m. to head to the airport. Both trips are on their second flight of the day.

D.C., Maine, Habitat, and Appalachia: Trips began meeting at 7 a.m. the last of this group departed at 10 a.m. While D.C., Maine, and Habitat will arrive at their destination later today, Appalachia is just on the first leg of their journey – to avoid the incoming storm they headed out today and will stay in Cumberland, Maryland tonight and finish their journey late Sunday.

Manchester and Camden: Still remain on campus. Manchester is due to leave mid-day, while Camden will depart tomorrow (time dependent on the incoming storm).

Photos: Departure Day

WBA Participants/Leaders Gearing Up To Serve In New Year

The Service & Solidarity Missions program, now in its 25th year, provides its participants not only with the opportunity to serve others but also with an experience that further develops lessons learned in the classroom. Throughout their week of service, prayer, and reflection students step beyond their comfort zone and ask themselves meaningful questions about who they want to be in the world.


The Winter Break Alternative participants will be starting the New Year off right, heading out it just a few short days for WBA 2015!  This years 118 Winter Break participant’s will journey throughout the United States and internationally to places such as West Virginia (Appalachia), Orland Maine, Camden N.J., Manchester N.H., Vineland N.J. (Habitat), New Orleans LA., Washington D.C., and the Dominican Republic.

All Service and Solidarity Leaders return to campus on New Year's Day to attend to the final preparations. Participants will come back to campus on Friday, January 2nd. And all will gather at 7 p.m. in the Lady Chapel in the lower Abbey Church for the WBA send-off Mass, friends and family are welcome to join us!

Trips begin leaving bright and early Saturday morning with the Dominican Republic and New Orleans (NOLA) groups heading to the airport first thing, followed by D.C., Maine, N.J. (Habitat), and Manchester all heading out before noon. Appalachia and Camden will spend one more day on campus before they depart nice and early on Sunday, January 4th.

I ask for your prayers for these participants, for the work they will be doing, the communities for which they will be serving, and the personal challenges each participant will face.

For updates on trip departures and arrivals check-in here!