Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spring Break is a time for relaxing, seeing family, going on tropical vacations, and catching up on some Netflix binge-watching. But for a team of 17  University of Iowa Dance Marathon participants, Spring Break meant being a part of something bigger than themselves. Through the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, and Hawkeye Service Teams, this year a University of Iowa Dance Marathon sponsored Alternative Spring Break trip traveled down to Little Rock, Arkansas to become more educated on children’s health while spreading their lime at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Leaving bright and early on the first Saturday of Spring Break, the team drove nine hours down to Little Rock and spent four days and five nights immersed in the South. Alternative Spring Break trips require 24-hours of service and the group filled their hours in varying ways.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is one of the largest in the United States and serves an entire population of children in Arkansas. The group of students worked with volunteer coordinators and spent each day in the hospital volunteering. Tasks included having a lively craft party in the outpatient waiting area, brightening children’s day with art carts (carts full of fun art supplies to make wait times go by quickly), and participating in a campus beautification project, all while having spontaneous dance parties. The team also volunteered at the local Ronald McDonald house and met their adorable dog, Mac as well as the Volunteer Coordinator who was an Iowa native (Go Hawks!)

Coordinating with a local church, the group also served dinner for the homeless, getting a chance to sit down and immerse themselves in a different setting from the hospital.

Alternative Spring Break trips emphasize serving the community in ways that they require and not serving based on the trip’s own pre convinced plans. One member of the trip broke down this idea in a very simple way saying that we do the small things so they are able to do the big things. Thinking in this mindset motivated students in all of the work they did and humbled their experiences within the community. It also gave students a way to reflect on the social issues they experienced and saw around them.

One component to an Alternative Spring Break is also cultural immersion. Prior to heading down to Arkansas, the team learned the importance of  immersing themselves within a culture or community in order to attempt a better understanding of diverse backgrounds. Students on the Little Rock trip got to hike to the peak of Pinnacle Mountain, enjoyed ice cream at the River Landing, and learned more about American history and current racial issues during a tour of Little Rock Central High School, the location of the famous historic group – the Little Rock Nine.

The trip was full of growth, learning, late night talks, and lots of car dancing but overall the team was able to shape their impact in a new way while re-shaping their own “why”. Traveling to Arkansas Children’s Hospital exposed students to a new perspective on children’s health. It provided them with a new way to spread their lime across the country, create lasting relationships with hospital and volunteer coordinators, and leave them inspired on new ways to create a difference in a child’s life.

By: Elizabeth Jackson, DM 26 PR Chair