The MSU group
Allison Bjornson and Stephanie Fournier help pack clothes with World Vision to send to families in Haiti.
Alternative spring break trip changes MSU students' perspectives
When university students think of spring break they imagine the Florida beaches or a wild week in Mexico. Twenty-seven Minot State University students and staff members had an eye-opening spring break and a trip words cannot describe.
"These experiences made me want to help more, it made me hungry to serve," said Kallie Holmen, MSU sophomore from Minot. "I feel like I wasn't able to give as much as what I got myself, and I feel like I came home with more than what I was able to give."
The MSU group settled themselves in the "Mile High City" of Denver, Colo. Upon their arrival, they began volunteering at non-profit organizations that work with homeless, low-income families, children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
While in Colorado, the group volunteered with Denver Urban Ministries (DENUM), Denver Rescue Mission, Denver Urban Peak and Head Start of the Rockies. DENUM is an organization that holds relationships with more than 30 non-profit organizations that the MSU group volunteered through.
Many of the stories MSU students brought back were from their time volunteering with Denver Urban Peak. This organization is dedicated to homeless youth, ages 15-24, who are trying to start a better life. To the MSU students, this was a powerful and great learning experience, to hear the stories of someone their age dealing with issues they never knew existed.
"You can't just see they are homeless, you have to talk to them and hear their story," said Julia Bogenrief, MSU sophomore from Minot.
Statistics show that 50 percent of homeless people have jobs, but due to the economy, they just do not make enough to pay for rent or support their family. The group also learned 90 percent of people have experienced a tragic event in their life that has caused them to be homeless.
"Some of the people waiting near the church we volunteered at would be dressed in suits, so they wouldn't be looked down upon," said Holmen.
"People apart of the program all had a story to tell about their life of being homeless, and it was neat to see the students interact with the folks we were volunteering with and knowing the students were making a difference in the lives that the organization helps," said organizer Kari Williamson, Lutheran Campus Ministry pastor.
"They (homeless individuals) are probably one of the hardest working groups to get out of being homeless, because some people think they are homeless because they are lazy, but some of them are working really hard to get out of it," Holmen explained. While volunteering, the MSU group learned about the growing issues of homelessness, hunger and poverty in not only the urban setting of Denver, but around the world. The group spent one day with World Vision, where they packed clothes to be sent to families in Haiti. When the group entered a room full of clothes, the leader for World Vision explained how it did not look like much, but those clothes would cloth almost 4,500 people.
"I've gained knowledge of what it is like being homeless and what people go through," said Bogenrief. "It is good to see them working for a goal."
"The trip really opened my eyes up to issues that are facing homeless people and people who are struggling to make ends meet," Kaitlin Regan, MSU freshman from Jamestown. "It made me grateful for what I have in my life."
The group spent one week learning about people who are struggling with homelessness. They will never forget their experiences or the stories they heard.
"The most satisfying part of the experience was knowing that by just volunteering I can make at least a little difference in someone else's life," said Regan. "I gained the knowledge of why there is homelessness and how I can make a difference back in my community."