Alternative Spring Break: a College Volunteer Experience during a Trip to the SF Bay Area


6 years ago, I went on an amazing alternative spring break. Most people would be out drinking on their 21st birthday but I spent that time in the company of great people at a hostel. Before going into the details of the trip, there are a couple key questions to address. What exactly is “Alternative Spring Break”? How did I join?

Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is a program run by the Center for Service in Action (CSA), which is the University of California Irvine (UCI) resource center for community service campus organizations. ASB occurs in multiple sites with an interview and matching process by the CSA interns who plan and run the event. In my case, going to the San Francisco Bay Area to learn more about healthcare and policy was an extremely popular choice amongst students like myself. During the interview process, the questions were geared towards revealing personality. So I focused on being me and sharing the golden moments of my childhood like why Lion King was one of my favorite movies as a kid. As a quick sidenote, I was worried about “stealing someone’s spot” simply because I was a CSA intern as well. However, Jess and Thao (my two colleagues and friends) made it a point that they really appreciated my candor and how I responded during the interview. I will save the details about my role as an administrative intern for a future blog post.

So… what did we do on this popular trip? Well, we met a handful of influential people and had some fun along the way.

Overall, myself and the ASB students assisted with various programs, usch as ReCares, Vida, and Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  What was most interesting was hearing from social workers about the structure of government and healthcare policy. In San Francisco, there is a unique dynamic as both a city and county. In contrast, the East Bay differs with Alameda county and cities, such as Berkeley and Oakland. I was somewhat familiar with the healthcare scene as a native Alamedan but Wendy Georges, a social worker for Alameda County, went into greater detail. As depicted in the top photo, Wendy is a bright Cal (University of California Berkeley) alumnus who actively addresses the issue of healthcare for the homeless. She shed light on a radically different way of thinking. She talked about mobile health clinics on wheels for the homeless and how other aspects come into play in regards to medical treatment, such as utilizing public transportation to arrive at an appointment on time. Granted, AC Transit (the bus) and BART (the subway) are relatively accessible and reliable, though they do add some level of stress when it comes down to reaching a certain destination by a specific time. Following is an article about the mobile clinic program she mentioned to me and my ASB peers.

At ReCares, we sorted and distributed donated healthcare equipment, such as walkers. However, there was a low turnout so we helped with phone banking.

At Vida we sorted through donated medical equipment that would be distributed internationally to countries in South America, such as medicines and stethoscopes.

Last but not least, we helped out at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen one day and sortedbooks at another location the next day. In the dusty environment, I unfortunately had a bloody nose but patched up and kept going. These were the eye-opening volunteer experiences from the trip. The group was highly motivated and full of amazing stories. After the trip, I felt a greater desire to impact the community as a future healthcare professional.

As a community, we have a social responsibility to address the medical needs of every individual. That is by no means an easy task and differs at the federal, state, and county levels. A lot of the trends occurring now and continuing into the future will focus on public awareness and implementation of public health policies that promote wellness to address preventable yet serious medical conditions.

I am glad to now be in a position where I can make a serious impact at the level of one-on-one patient care. Stay hydrated. Eat your veggies. Stand up every so often. Sleep well. Last but not least… do your exercises and ask me if you need help.

To finish up this blog post, here are fun memories captured on film.

Cable car museum


The Ropeway System


The Cables


Old First Presbyterian Church


The Tour


Stained Glass


African American Museum and Library Building

African American Museum and Library Building

African American Museum Interior

African American Museum Interior



China Town


Pier 39 (Fisherman’s Wharf)


Map of the Bay Area


The Hostel


My Room


Union Square


Golden Gate Park


Last but not least… the Golden Gate Bridge



One thought on “Alternative Spring Break: a College Volunteer Experience during a Trip to the SF Bay Area”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s