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Destination trips provide new experiences, volunteer opportunities for UWRF students

March 14, 2014

The Destination Program at UW-River Falls began in 2006, and has given students the opportunity to serve others through education, direct service and reflection.

It all began when UWRF students wanted to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Student Life organized a J Term and spring break trip to give students the chance to help others regionally, domestically and internationally.

This year there will be 60 students participating in the Destination trips. There are numerous destinations that students will be visiting this spring break, such as New Orleans, Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia. Molly Breitmün is a Destination trip leader and has been helping to plan the trips since last September.

“This year I’m going to Atlanta, Georgia. My group of 10 will be working with Medici Project, a non-profit that develops programs for students to get involved in service,” Breitmün said. “We will volunteer at a homeless center, visit the Martin Luther King Center and learn about the Civil Rights movement, tutor at an ‘at-risk public middle school, help at a nonprofit that provides therapy through art, serve brunch at a church that serves the homeless and sort donated unused medical supplies to be sent to Africa.”

The Destination trips vary when it comes to the amount of time that students spend in each place. The Destination Regional is a weekend experience, the Destination International is a week-long experience over J Term, and the Spring Break Destination trip is next week.

Many of the Destination trip leaders believe that these trips are beneficial to not only students, but also the people who they travel so far to help. Stacey Kunde, a Destination trip leader, believes it is important to help others and learn about how people around the world live.

“For some it is a lifestyle to serve others. I am part of this group of people that live out their lives helping others where ever they go. We like to make even the smallest of positive change where ever we go and what better way than to give your week of academic freedom to do some service,” Kunde said. “People do Destination trips to try something new, to learn more about the social issues in our world or to simple travel and gain experiences that they otherwise would never have.”

Other trip leaders agree that the Destination trips are something that students should experience if they have the opportunity to. Darren Ward is the trip leader to New Orleans this year, and will be focusing on disaster relief and rebuilding homes for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“Destination is a life-changing experience whether it is just across the board in Minnesota or thousands of miles away,” Ward said. “These experiences often change people’s entire outlooks on life, change their majors or career paths, and make each participant a lifetime servant leader.”

One aspect of the Destination trips that stands apart from other students activities this upcoming spring break is that they travel by a “live simply” agreement. This means that students limit their use of technology, resources and expenses in a way that reflects the poverty level.

“I have led a privileged life,” Breitmün said. “I want to make sure I take time out of my busy life at UWRF to pay it forward.”