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Campus Life

Alternative Winter Break

A new student group creates service opportunities during intersession


Photo courtesy of Winter Outreach

Several years ago, Jane Horstmann (SED’10) spent two months in New Orleans as part of a high school exchange program.

“My host family was amazing,” Horstmann recalls. “They really took me in as one of their own.”

So when Hurricane Katrina hit, in 2005, she felt a special responsibility to do something for the New Orleans community. “I wanted to get down there and help out,” Horstmann says.

But when she arrived at BU, Horstmann was disappointed to discover that the Community Service Center (CSC) did not offer service trips during intersession, like the Alternative Spring Break trips offered in March. The longer winter recess, she says, seemed like the perfect time to balance a break with family and friends and a week of volunteer work.

Not to be deterred, she planned a trip — by herself.

“I decided it was time to make a change — in my own life and at BU,” she says.

With the nonprofit group Phoenix of New Orleans, an organization started by a Tulane University med student to recruit volunteers and provide support for Katrina victims, Horstmann negotiated the logistics of a seven-day excursion to the flood-ravaged city in January 2009. The group of 11 BU students spent a week gutting, painting, drywalling, and rebuilding houses.

Winter Outreach was born.

“It was a lot of work for me since I organized and ran the trip by myself, but I was determined to make it a success,” Horstmann says. “The week we spent in New Orleans made it worth it.”

This year, Horstmann, along with Katie Snyder (CAS’11), a friend who volunteered last year, registered Winter Outreach as an official BU student group. Advised by CSC manager Lindsey Wyld Kotowicz (SED’07), the group is organizing two trips: to New Orleans for more rebuilding and to Seguin, Tex., to volunteer at the Society for Animal Rescue and Adoption, a no-kill animal sanctuary 45 minutes outside of San Antonio.

“It makes so much more sense to go somewhere during the winter break, since it’s so long,” says Snyder, vice president of the new student group. “You get time with your family, and when you can’t stand that anymore, there’s still a week of service, all in one break.”

The trips are relatively inexpensive, Snyder says. The $560 volunteers pay covers airfare, food, housing, and ground transportation.

“They have a phrase, ‘New Orleans — Proud to call it home,’ and it really does start to feel like home,” says Horstmann. “Everyone is friendly and looks out for one another. It’s a city that you really want to thrive.”

The deadline to submit applications to volunteer for a Winter Outreach trip is Friday, October 16. Apply here.

Winter Outreach will screen the film Trouble the Water, about Hurricane Katrina and its victims, tonight, October 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the College of Arts & Sciences, Room B12.

Devon Maloney can be reached at devon.maloney@gmail.com.

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