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An Alternative Spring Break

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  • School children learn about dental care in Honduras. F&M students will help to educate other Honduran children on their medical mission over spring break.

Some Franklin & Marshall students will head south for spring break, to the sandy beaches of Florida, Mexico or other popular destinations. Others will head home for a respite from the rigors of academic life.

Meanwhile, on the dirt roads in rural Honduras, a handful of F&M students will embark on a medical mission to educate and treat people in one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nations.

The Ware Institute for Civic Engagement, in partnership with Central American Relief Efforts (CARE), will provide an "alternative" spring break in Honduras for students interested in medicine, public health and service. The trip takes place March 14-20, and the deadline to register is Feb. 10. Jan Masland, nurse practitioner, director of student health & wellness and sexual assault victim advocate, will accompany students on the trip.

Steve Mentzer, president of CARE, held an informational session for interested students Monday afternoon in Booth Ferris. A veteran of more than two dozen trips to Honduras, Mentzer says the medical missions have had a lasting impact on his life.

"When I first heard about the opportunity, I said, 'no way am I going to the equator in July,'" Mentzer says. "But my life was radically changed by seeing a hospital that I wouldn't want to send my pet to."

CARE mobilizes volunteers and humanitarian aid in the United States to benefit Central American populations in extreme poverty. It sends shipping containers to rural clinics and hospitals, administers a system of delivering medicines and provides eye and dental care. CARE also organizes trips for groups—like the one from F&M—to operate free medical clinics in rural Honduras.

F&M students will spend two days working on light construction projects at Hospital San Lorenzo, where they will also go on rounds with doctors. The group will then travel to rural areas of the country to work in dental hygiene clinics at schools and local medical clinics.

The cost for the trip is $1,550. Students may apply for The Matthew Colip '06 Journey to Service Fellowship Fund, which is intended to support students who would not otherwise be able to afford the experience.

Mimi Russo '12 and Katie Vincento '12 have already registered for the spring break trip. Russo, who previously volunteered as a "candy striper" at a Boston hospital, looks forward to contributing to health care on a more personal level. Vincento says it will be good to be part of a public service endeavor.

"I'm interested in going to places where help is needed," Vincento says. "I have always wanted to do something like this."