Spring break. For some, it's a time to party and let loose after a grueling first half of the semester and endless cramming for midterms. Most of us know the usual spring break destinations for party hungry college students, including Cancun, Mexico, or Panama City, Fla. But what if non-stop partying isn't your idea of an ideal spring break?
There are plenty of opportunities to take a mission trip and do good with your time off from school.
The Rev. Dan Weber of the Calvary Bible Church in Champion is a huge advocate of mission trips to different impoverished countries to help the less fortunate. Last summer, Weber took a church group and his family, including his daughter, Vanessa, a senior at Champion High, on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. They visited children living in orphanages and brought supplies to schools to help improve the learning environment for the students. Medical supplies were also brought to medical clinics so patients could receive the treatment they needed and could not otherwise get.
"I was pretty much born and raised in a mission and always enjoy going on these trips to help these countries," said Weber. "We have so much compared to these countries. In the United States, we're spoiled in so many ways."
According to Weber, many church groups participate in sports ministries. Baseball is an extremely popular sport with the children of the Dominican Republic, and everyone plays it with little exception. However, while beautiful ball fields are left deserted in America because of the decline of the popularity of baseball in the United States, thousands of children in countries such as the Dominican Republic play baseball games on dirt fields with worn out balls and bats.
"We bring baseball equipment to the local pro stadium and pass it out to hundreds of kids so they can play," said Weber.
College teams from the United States are even brought down to play against some of the organized teams in the Dominican Republic.
Weber usually plans mission trips like this every three or four years, and usually in the summertime. There are, however, many churches and organizations planning trips throughout the year, and there are plenty of opportunities to take a beneficial trip during spring break.
Megan Ameen of Cortland, a junior at Wittenburg University, had the opportunity during the spring of 2008 to work with the Environmental Protection Agency in Pensacola, Fla.
Ameen worked on a team to restore endangered native plant and animal species in the beach and salt marsh areas.
"I learned a lot about how the natural sand dunes contributed to the environment, and how the hurricanes caused much devastation to the plant and animal life within the dunes," said Ameen about her trip to Florida, "as well as the value oysters add to the environment."
Both Weber and Ameen said they wouldn't trade these experiences for anything.
"The way I felt after the trip was more than fulfilling," said Ameen. "The people of the agency put in so much time to make a difference in the environment and to help restore what others take for granted. I have the most respect for the people in that agency, and I would never hesitate to volunteer again."
Weber said that mission trips are a great way to build character, and he thinks it's a dynamic way to change one's perspective on life in general.
"I tell everybody that they need to go on at least one mission trip in their lifetime. It will change their life," said Weber. "You realize how happy they are without all the stuff we have, and it really softens your heart."