Little by little

Mizzou Alternative Breaks resumes wider service this upcoming spring break.

Mizzou Alternative Breaks students at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma
Mizzou Alternative Breaks students helped prepare meal boxes at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in 2019. Courtesy photo.

By Maddy Stout

“Poco a poco.” Chloe Brewer kept the Spanish words in her mind one chilly day early last spring as she helped paint a fence and clean out a garage for an elderly Columbia couple. “Little by little.”

“When we say ‘poco a poco,’ we are saying it may not feel like this really big change but, in reality, it is a really big thing for the people we are serving,” said Brewer, director of leadership development for Mizzou Alternative Breaks (MAB).

The phrase is one of seven fundamental principles of MAB. It helps volunteers like Brewer keep perspective.

“We get to give back to the community that we live in and learn about the community,” Brewer said. “It’s just important to give back, even if it’s just for a weekend.”

Join Mizzou Alternative Breaks for spring break! Apply via MU Engage Jan. 16-Jan. 30.

MAB began sending Mizzou students on service trips in 1991. Volunteers have travelled across the United States and even to the Dominican Republic to serve in 15 focus areas, ranging from adaptive skiing to youth empowerment. By 2019, MAB was the largest alternative break program in the country.

In spring 2020, MAB halted all national trips but continued to serve locally. In October, MAB volunteers served in Columbia and travelled to Ashland and Fulton to help local organizations such as Coyote Hill Children’s Home, Central Latino, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and Special Olympics.

“In the past year and a half, it’s been great to just stay local,” MAB Graduate Assistant Mel Frieders said. “It’s been great to re-center and have our students get to know Columbia as their base for service before they go out and serve in the big world.”

Chloe Brewer presents to students at Jenks West Elementary School in Jenks, Oklahoma
Chloe Brewer presents to students at Jenks West Elementary School in Jenks, Oklahoma in 2019. Courtesy photo.

Starting with spring break, MAB will begin serving in neighboring states again. There will be eight weekend trips this spring and three trips over spring break.

MAB hopes to resume their normal scope of operations in fall 2022. Site leaders will determine trip focus areas early in the spring semester. The most common focus areas are health, education, environment issues and youth empowerment.

“We are focusing on quality over quantity as we return,” Frieders said. “Little by little, hopefully we can rebuild and be back to where we once were.”

Students can apply for spring break trips via MU Engage Jan. 16-30.

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