Alternative Spring Break: Good Step toward a More Perfect World

Mark Zachar is a graduate student in Education and Graduate Assistant for Service in UMBC Student Life.

Mark ZacharDon’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or, from Volaire: Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. (The best is the enemy of the good).

We all have a sense of what a perfect society might include: peace, fair distribution of wealth, access to health care and food, equal rights for all, etc. And we all know that we have a long, long way to go to achieve these things. But should the impossibility of immediate and total success deter us from trying at all? No!

Small actions are part of the long effort toward a more perfect world.  We may never experience the perfect, but the good (and more) is in our reach.  And the good is better than nothing, and definitely worth working for.  As modern day philosopher Steven Pinker has stated (with a phrase that has been pasted on carry-out bags, for all burrito-loving Americans to ponder as they enjoy their Chipotle): We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one.

I see our UMBC short term volunteer projects through this lens.  Will a day of service or a week-long Spring Break project change the world?  Not much, by themselves. But do they do good? YES! Are they valuable? Absolutely. They’re valuable to our community partners because 10 sets of hands can accomplish in one hour what would take one person 10 hours to do, freeing up community partners for other projects. They’re valuable to students because we are experiential learners. And these short projects can be the catalyst for future civic engagement that is more sustainable and can solve problems and transform the world.

We’re preparing for four really amazing Alternative Spring Break trips this year through Student Life, and invite UMBC undergraduates to apply. The trips focus on:

Homelessness (led by students Markya Reed and Megan Lynch): Participants in this ASB trip will learn about the experience and challenges of homelessness, and reflect on approaches to addressing the issue through public policy and community action. Participants will work with local organizations and people in Baltimore experiencing homelessness.

Public Health (led by students Poulomi Banerjee and Monsuru ‘Neyo’ Adekoya): Working with free clinics and other health-focused nonprofit organizations, participants will learn about the state of health care in Maryland, social factors that can affect health, and populations that suffer from health disparities. Through reflection and conversation, the participants will consider approaches to making positive change in this area.

Intellectual and Physical Disabilities/ARC (led by student Simin Hossain): Participants will spend time each day at the ARC of Carroll County (which serves people with intellectual and physical disabilities), developing relationships with clients, learning about the population, and dispelling stereotypes and stigma.

Alternative Healthcare/Gesundheit! Institute (led by students Tina Nassehi and Lisa Dang): Participants will explore alternative healthcare, and reflect on our health care system, at the Gesundheit Institute in beautiful West Virginia. Participants will engage in service projects on site, and learn about Patch Adam’s philosophy of laughter and life.

There is a fee to participate in these trips , which will range from about $75-$200 depending on the trip location and the participants’ success at fundraising. This money goes directly into paying the operational costs of the trip and nothing else. The exact fee for each trip will be calculated once the trip planning is complete. Fundraising and scholarship opportunities will be available.

Applications are due Sunday, November 16th, at midnight. If you’re a UMBC undergraduate, don’t miss this chance to do some good and develop skills to build a more perfect world.

Contact the author, Mark Zachar, at

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