Alternative Spring Break: An Opportunity to Build Homes and Communications
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Christopher Brenton graduated from NC State’s Poole College of Management on May 12 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing concentration, as well as a better understanding of other cultures gained through his 2012 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in the Dominican Republic.
For one week Brenton worked on three Habitat for Humanity projects as part of the project coordinated by NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics, and Public Service (C-SKEPS).
Brenton said he was drawn to ASB because of the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity (HFH), an organization he has worked with in the past.
He first became acquainted with HFH through his involvement with his fraternity, Sigma Nu, at NC State University. Sigma Nu is a national HFH partner and Brenton participated with a number of builds as an active member of the chapter.
“I think HFH is an incredible organization because it’s not just service,” said Brenton. “It’s service learning and engagement with the community.”
While in the Dominican Republic, Brenton worked with the ASB team directed by student leaders Mary Charles Hale and Camille Smith and faculty adviser Abraham Dones, assistant director for NC State’s Office of Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs.
The ASB team helped Habitat for Humanity meet its goal of completing 50 houses by May 2012. HFH was halfway to its goal and was in the process of completing two more houses and starting another when the NC State ASB team arrived. The students focused on completing tasks like digging footers, pouring concrete, shoveling dirt, and transporting building materials – all done without power tools. Their work was essential in helping the HFH team achieve its goal.
“There were many manual skills we had to learn to help complete the job site tasks,” Brenton said.
The ASB week also gave Brenton the opportunity to learn more about the Caribbean and Spanish languages and cultures through immersion.
“Language was the biggest cultural barrier since only a few of the team members had extensive experience through Spanish language courses,” Brenton said. A good attitude and “really trying to push themselves” to communicate in Spanish helped the team overcome the language barrier. “By the end of the trip our language skills had improved drastically,” he said.
Brenton’s trip to the Dominican Republic was his second trip abroad, so the experience of traveling to another country and not being able to speak the language was not as much of a shock for him as it might have be and he came home with meaningful experiences.
“I know that the trip definitely broadened my perspective and knowledge,” Brenton said. “I have a greater breadth of life experiences to draw from going forward.”
Involvement in global affairs, including possibly global brand management, is one of the routes Brenton may consider. He hopes to work with as many people as possible, regardless of where he may end up.
“I firmly believe that my ASB trip will allow me to be better at relating to and working with others who may have a different background than my own,” Brenton said.
Brenton is from Mount Holly, N.C., where his parents Don and Cindy Brenton presently reside.