TWC students educated on hunger, poverty during alternative fall break trip

Posted on: November 1, 2012

For most Tennessee Wesleyan College students, October's fall break means a break from classes and studying and a chance to spend time at home with family. For ten students, one faculty and two staff members, fall break was an opportunity to learn about global hunger and poverty and what type of sustainable solutions can help.

For most Tennessee Wesleyan College students, October’s fall break means a break from classes and studying and a chance to spend time at home with family. For ten students, one faculty and two staff members, fall break was an opportunity to learn about global hunger and poverty and what type of sustainable solutions can help.

“Hunger and poverty are everywhere,” said Tiffany Dierden, a TWC freshmen who participated in the alternative fall break trip to Heifer International, located in Little Rock, Ark. “You just have to open your eyes to see it.”

The Heifer ranch offered the TWC visitors the opportunity to participate in education and service-oriented interactive learning programs, which bring awareness of the great need in the world and not only allow participants to give back but also serve as great educational tools - both about the value of giving your service to others and experiencing something for the first time – such as milking a goat or harvesting vegetables.

“It was interesting to live like many people from third world countries live but it was also melancholy to think about the difficulties they face, while we take things like sanitary plumbing for granted,” said DJ Thomas, a TWC freshmen.

TWC faculty and staff members who participated in the alternative fall break trip were also impressed with the eye-opening experience they had at the Heifer ranch.

“It was enlightening,” said Dr. Nancy Gregg, TWC assistant professor of education. “I have traveled and done many mission trips that have helped me understand the conditions of need in developing nations. However, Heifer’s methods for providing aid to families and communities are the most efficient and effective that I’ve seen.

“With Heifer, people are taught how to use resources to help themselves, not to simply wait on the next relief effort that might or might not come to their community. Teaching community members how to use the natural resources around them, how to improve their food production and how to raise animals to improve their food and income resources is a lasting education that truly makes a difference in places of poverty in both the U.S. and in other countries.”

While Tennessee Wesleyan has been offering alternative spring break trips annually, this year’s alternative fall break experience was a first for the college.

“I hope that this first official alternative fall break will serve as a springboard for future events for the TWC campus community,” said Dr. Scott Mashburn, vice president of student life and dean of students. “The Heifer International experience was an informative and humbling opportunity for me.  It was great to participate in such a worthwhile program with our students and faculty and staff.  We were able to learn about the impact that each individual has on our global community and how we can each make a difference.”

Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. Service activities for visiting students may include gardening, composting, working with livestock and helping with general farm chores such as barn and fence maintenance. Heifer’s alternative break programs have a primary emphasis on education programs, utilizing team-building exercises that explore the issues surrounding hunger and poverty and sustainable solutions and challenge participants to examine their habits and consumption on the path to becoming more responsible global citizens.

“The people who left for Heifer International Ranch on October 11 are not the same people who returned on October 14,” said Mandie Thacker Beeler, TWC director of the center of servant leadership. “We are changed deeply and permanently for the better. Ending hunger and poverty has always been a passion of mine and this experience taught me tangible ways to make a real difference.

“Heifer Ranch’s Educational Center teaches you how to truly serve people by experiencing food insecurity struggles, learning to acknowledge and respect culture and finding ways to meet legitimate needs. The Heifer International program is servant leadership at its finest and their commitment to passing on the importance of servant leadership is a wonderful lesson for each of us.”