Four groups of Northeastern University students embarked on service-centric trips to various locations in the New England area, including Providence, Rhode Island; Portland, Maine; and Laconia, NH between November 12-14 as part of the university’s alternate weekend program.
These weekend volunteer opportunities are relatively new at Northeastern University, and are adapted from an alternative spring break program created in response to the travel challenges created by COVID-19.
“[The] 2020 alternate weekend was one trip to New York City. Since then, Spring 2021 has transformed alternative spring holidays into weekend trips adapting to appropriate COVID safety protocols. Liz Woodwill, a fifth-year computer engineering student working toward a master’s degree in engineering management, said fall 2021 was the first semester with multiple weekend trips. Woodwill served as administrative and logistical coordinator for the Fall 2021 Alternative Weekend Program.
Each trip offered this year had a Northeastern University student as the designated team leader, who was responsible for selecting service organizations and planning all trip activities.
“I started working on this flight with my assistant in August,” said Logan Meda, team leader for the Providence, Rhode Island cruise. “As a team leader for the alternate weekend, I was responsible for the planning of the entire trip… and for pre-flight education to prepare participants for service.”
A Rhode Island trip organized by Meda focused on food insecurity. All of the organizations the group has interacted with are currently working to combat this problem in the Providence area.
“We were able to visit a market called Farm Fresh, which focuses on nutrition education and allows food to reach the communities. Sophomore industrial engineering pioneer Sam Yip who participated in the Rhode Island trip, we walked around their winter market, talked to farmers and learned about An organization called Hope’s Harvest.
Students also visited the Johnnycake Community Center, where they volunteered at the organization’s thrift store; Funds from the store go directly towards meals and foodstuffs for the surrounding community. On the last day of the trip, the students visited Red Planet Johnston’s farm, which grows and sells food to local farmers’ markets.
“There is no standard for what food insecurity looks like, … so we based our journey on unique organizations that are solving the problem of food insecurity in different ways,” said Meda.
Despite the short duration of this experiment, the participants found themselves closely related to each other, mostly due to team-oriented work but also to their accommodations, staying in a hostel for two nights.
“Throughout the trip, we were pretty much always together,” Yip said. “We were laughing at each other constantly.”
Meda, Woodwell, and Yip are all veterans of the Alternative Spring Break program, and each has two tours.
I went on my first alternate spring break in my freshman year [in Spring 2018]. “It was a great experience, and I knew I wanted to continue participating in the program at Northeastern University,” Woodwell said.
As a result of their alternate weekend background, these students can advise anyone interested.
“Openness and flexibility are really the most important thing to enjoying an alternative weekend experience. We are in a new place trying new things,” said Meda.
Yip echoed Meda’s thoughts on the program.
“You have to be flexible. A lot of things can happen, it gets delayed, there is traffic, plans fall apart, the weather is bad, etc.,” she said. “A big part of alternative weekend trips is meditation and everyone is entitled to a their thoughts and opinions. Whether you agree with them or not, it doesn’t really matter, you just have to be open to listening.”
Alternate breaks will return for Spring Break in 2022 with nine trips across the country. Meda, Woodwell, and Yip strongly encourage anyone to apply to and work on these passion programs for social issues.