New program enables students to spend Spring Break serving local community

By Betty Phyu Sin || Contributing Writer

During this spring break at F&M, the Ware Institute initiated a Local Alternative Spring Break Program which integrated learning and community service components During the program, which lasted from Wednesday, March 16 to Friday, March 18, students served, explored, and learned about the Lancaster community. The program activities included site–visits to rural neighborhood community service organizations, presentations by practitioners in the field of public health, and community service.

The first morning trip was to the New Hope Ministries, a Christian social service agency, which serves parts of the York County and the West Shore area of Cumberland County. The Ministries focus on mental well-being through crisis assistance, stability and workforce development, and youth development programs. The visit provided an introduction to the rural Lancaster neighborhoods as well as the prevalence of such community organizations. The next trip was to SOLANCO Neighborhood Ministries, a non–profit faith–based organization that provides food assistance as well as heating assistance and other emergency assistance. At SOLANCO’s food bank, F&M students were actively involved in packing Easter gifts for primary school students.

That afternoon, Berwood A. Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at F&M shared his research on the public health sector, especially of Amish and Mennonite
communities in Lancaster. Nurse practitioners from Lancaster General Hospital (LGH) then shared their field experiences for developing public health awareness in these communities. Presentations from Lancaster Nurse-Family Partnerships highlighted how community health programs can transform the lives of vulnerable first-moms in rural areas.

These presentations were complemented by the following day’s visit to the Clinic for Special Children, a well-structured active clinic serving a considerably large population of Amish and Mennonites. The program provided holistic understanding of public health by also including a visit to a Community Service Group (CSG)’s branch in Lancaster. There, students learned about Community Residential Rehabilitation Program (CRR)’s activities for mental health and intellectual development services. Moreover, they had the chance to hear first-hand experiences from a couple of individuals about their
recoveries.

The last day’s visit to the Factory Ministries that serve for the sustainable development individuals facing poverty offered more insights into rural poverty and its prevalence. The visit also helped students to actually relate and see the cyclical impact of poverty and its consequences as the members of the communities willingly shared their experiences with poverty. By pointing out the Factory Ministries’ motto, “Because Everyone’s Journey Matters”, the community members made students realize the importance of a
caring, supportive and non-judgmental society.

One of the participants Doug Benton ’17, highlighted the importance of the educational component of the program.

“This program exposed an extremely important yet overlooked problem that exists so close to the place we call home,” he said. “It was empowering and helped me reaffirm the direction I plan to take after college.”

Beyond his personal experience, Benton discussed the merits of F&M not only continuing this program, but expanding local community service programs for students.

“Adding a local community-based learning component to the general graduation requirements would certainly help inspire more of the study body to serve the Lancaster community and the other communities they will inhabit after graduating,” he said. “I believe that Franklin & Marshall has a valuable asset in this program. The school could continue to expand this program–into the curriculum of a broader class or even making more programs that are similar.”

First-year Betty Phyu Sin is a contributing writer. Her email is lsin@fandm.edu.

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