Professor Dave Parfitt led 13 students from SUNY at Geneseo for an alternative spring break at the Village. These Amazing Angels brought smiles to our special guests from sun up to sun down! The following is a collection of student reflections and a summary of how this trip was planned.
Give Kids The World: “Where Happiness Inspires Hope” – you see the phrase underneath the GKTW logo, on shirts, letterhead and the website. 13 college students from the State University of New York at Geneseo learned exactly what that phrase meant while volunteering at the Village on an alternative spring break trip in March.
The students signed up back in September, and raised money over the course of the year to fund their travel. They threw pies, held a Zumba-thon, and hosted a benefit concert with Yehaa Bob Jackson.
Everyone worked hard saving for the trip, and on Saturday, March 16, Spring Break arrived and they finally set foot in the Village. For a week students airbrushed tattoos, served breakfast and ice cream (occasionally the same meal), celebrated both Halloween and Christmas and even did a little painting.
You can find a complete rundown of our week here:
I wanted the students to describe what the experience in the Village meant to them. Over and over again, the word I read was “happy.”
“One thing that stuck out to me was how happy everyone was.” Cassidy Lester
“To see the happiness on the family’s faces and hear their words of appreciation brought tears of happiness to my eyes.” Amy Malsegna
“All the families I interacted with were simply happy to be on vacation and spend time together.” Jenn Levy
“I saw a father so incredibly happy and laughing so much because his daughter was dancing like crazy and having the best time.” Brandi Martin
It may sound cliché, but this overwhelming sense of happiness permeated every aspect of the Village, from the families to the volunteers to the staff members.
Many of the students met and chatted with families, and quickly learned the power of joy for those families. For example, Nicole Embt met an alumni wish family and spoke with the mother while her son played in the pool. Before coming to GKTW the boy was in and out of hospitals constantly, but since his trip to GKTW one year ago, they have not stepped foot inside a hospital. At that point, he zoomed past in a wheelchair laughing heartily.
“These are the moments I will remember for the rest of my life, and I now know that nothing is impossible,” added Nicole.
This is the fourth year I’ve led SUNY Geneseo students to GKTW for alternative break, and one student, Josephine Champlin, has gone three out of four times. I asked Josephine what keeps her coming back to GKTW, and she replied, “GKTW is truly a special place. I leave inspired and motivated to be a better person and do more things to help.” Josephine said the Village holds a special place in her heart, and she can’t imagine not coming back – a sentiment shared by more than one student.
“I hope to bring my friends and family down one day too.” Amy
“I can’t wait to go back to volunteer again. It is definitely at the top of my list in things that I will make a regular part of my life. There really is no better place to be a Volunteer Angel.” Nicole
“I already know that I want to go back to GKTW and volunteer again – it is truly a life-changing experience.” Jenn
In addition to Josephine, one other student was returning to GKTW on this trip, but for a different reason. Kaitlyn Mamay’s first time at Give Kids The World Village was to receive her wish to go to Walt Disney World. Regarding her visit Kaitlyn explained,
“I was in awe at the kindness my family and I received, and left believing it would be an experience incomparable to all others. I was wrong; volunteering this spring at GKTW was a life-changing experience. I was given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many beautiful children and their families. Everything I did was to bring happiness to these families, but I cannot remember a single time all week where I also, did not have a humongous smile across my face. I have never felt so much joy in my heart than while in the village; I believe in miracles, I believe in magic, and I believe in Give Kids The World.”
The GKTW Alternative Break Week is by far the highlight of my academic and professional year, and because the Village is so close to a major tourist area it’s reasonable for the college student budget. All and all the trip cost $750 per student for a week in Orlando with food, housing and transportation. The students offset some of that cost with their fundraising. We rented two vacation villas (just 2 miles from GKTW) and stocked them with food from the grocery store. We needed two rental minivans for transportation to and from GKTW and around Orlando. The largest expense was the flights to Florida (hard to find discounts for nonstop flights from Rochester to Orlando during spring break). Based on the comments I’ve received from the group, $100 per day was a reasonable price to pay for a transformational spring break experience, and I think many of them would jump at the chance to sign up again.
For more information on how you can schedule a group volunteer experience, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.