Entering the ABIS

By Victoria Clarizio
Staff Writer

This year for Spring Break, rather than returning to our homes, myself and 9 other people traveled to Scranton. Yes, we traveled to Scranton. I know you’re scratching your head in confusion and asking; don’t we go to school in Scranton? The Scranton we traveled to is a world away from the Scranton we live in. We left Marywood and entered the ABIS (Alternate Break in Scranton).

Pat Dunleavy, one of our chaperones, put the idea of the ABIS perfectly when she said, “I see this area in strata now, layers that I didn’t pay attention to before the trip.  And Cooper’s Seafood House will never look the same to me – leaving Bethel shelter and looking across the street to Cooper’s lot, full of cars.” Anna Mizer, one of the peer facilitators of the trip agrees with Pat that she, “got to see a side of Scranton I wasn’t familiar with. Through the experiences I had on this trip my eyes have been opened to hunger, homelessness, and poverty in our own community and I see certain issues differently now.”

Everyone was compelled to join this trip for a reason; none of us returned as the same person. Carly Byrne “decided to participate in ABIS because I wanted to get to know the community that I am living in. Also, I wanted to make a difference in another persons life.” For most of the group the most powerful part of this trip was that we were able to make an impact on our own community, and the most amazing part is that we can still continue to make a difference even though spring break is over. This is the reason Anna says she signed up for the trip: “I decided to participate in the trip so that I could gain a new understanding and serve our local community, not one that was far away and I wouldn’t be able to see the impact.”

The trip consisted of a variety of small community service activities, which varied from day to day. We worked with local organizations, such as United Neighborhood Centers and Community Intervention Center. We did everything from painting to helping at afterschool programs, giving us a broad view of the many ways in which we can contribute to our community. I would encourage any one who wants to see a whole new side of our community and make a difference right here to consider signing up for the Alternate Break in Scranton. My fellow trip members have some advice for anyone thinking about participating. Pat says, “to others considering this trip – be prepared to work harder than you think you can and to get back more than you can imagine.” Jill Troiano, the other peer facilitator would tell a potential participant, “when you go on a service trip, you think you’re going to be helping and giving to people in need. In reality, it’s the people we meet and serve who give to us. They give us humility and appreciation for our family, a home and a hot meal. Every time I go to Bethel shelter, I am leaving with knowledge of a world I don’t see everyday around me.”

Along with the hard work we had lots of fun and got to know some great people who we will never forget. Everyone agrees with me on this point(at least I hope every one does). Colleen Dunn told me enthusiastically: “I had the best time with the group I went with, and would definitely do it again!!” Every time I pass Bethel Shelter I remember all of the people I served and talked to there. Most of all, I hope I left my mark on those people because they certainly changed me. Thinking about the people I helped I begin to realize that I could run into any one of them randomly on the street, in the grocery store or Walmart. Best of all, as everyone agrees, we can continue the work we started. That is the ABIS experience. I will leave you with the words of our wise “Mama Pat” who described perfectly what I think every one got out of the trip: “a new set of eyes, eyes that are less quick to judge and more likely to see love and care in the world around [us].”