Andrea Dark, a fourth-year political science student and ASB Belize Team Leader, writes about how her experiences with the ASB program have increased her awareness of local and international needs.   

Hi, my name is Andrea Dark; I am in my 4th year studying political science and I am the co-team leader for Alternative Spring Break Belize.

I was interested in applying to become an ASB team leader because I was a participant in a past ASB Ottawa trip, and I wanted to build on the eye-opening experiences I had. I am originally from Ottawa, and I thought I was familiar with the city; however, after completing ASB Ottawa, my eyes were opened to many new walks of life and the various services offered within our community. I now want to share my community service-learning (CSL) knowledge with future ASB participants in hopes that they too will have eye-opening experiences!

In addition to sharing my ASB experience with this year’s participants, I am excited to bring my own CSL involvement to an international level. I have been overseas on vacations and back-packing trips, but I have never volunteered abroad. I am really looking forward to becoming a better person through interacting and working with the community of San Pedro, Colombia!

One of the most challenging things about this experience will be the balance between being a participant and a team leader. Yes, I am a team leader and will be assisting in bringing the group together, helping organize fundraisers and initiating CSL within our group! As much as I will be helping lead the group, I would also like to participate in all of the activities. I think it is important that I find balance between the two!

I am most excited about broadening my CSL horizon, to be able to come back to Canada with a new lease on life, to have shared an extraordinary experience with my group and become a better person throughout the year! To be honest, I am really looking forward to this international experience; I have done a lot of volunteering in Canada, however, I haven’t really participated in CSL activities. I am looking forward to this experience and the future impacts it will have on me as a person!

My team’s first pre-departure session was held on Saturday November 3rd, 2012. The pre-departure was divided into three sections: ice-breakers/getting to know each other, explaining our trip to Belize and what CSL is, and the Fish Philosophy. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone was engaged and not only willing to participate within our presentation, but also active in getting to know each other. Our participants did an awesome job at being open and generating an interesting discussion regarding CSL. I believe that our first pre-departure was a great success and I look forward to reading everyone’s learning plans. We (the Belize team) have decided that we will discuss our individual goals and come together to form a group goal at our next pre-departure.

I can’t say that I have faced any challenges since becoming team leader. I have been blessed with an awesome co-team lead, Shafiqah, who excels at communicating and being organized. This has been very helpful as I could always use a little help staying organized!  We have been able to work together as a team, brainstorm ideas and feed off of each other’s creativity. In terms of any challenges so far, we lost a team member, but we were able to offer their spot to another excellent candidate. Other than that, we have been fortunate to have an out-going and engaging group who is not afraid to start a discussion or ask questions!

So far, I have become a better team member, opened my eyes to new ideas, discovered that many of my fellow group members share similar goals and enriched my CSL knowledge.  Looking ahead, I am hoping that I will advance my leadership skills through planning pre-departures, fundraisers and through CSL in Belize!

Submitted by Andrea Dark, a fourth-year political science student and ASB Belize Team Leader.

To find out more about the Alternative Spring Break program, please visit carleton.ca/seo/asb


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