LaGrange students take alternative spring break to El Salvador


   While hundreds of college students spent their spring breaks swimming at the beach, relaxing on a cruise or hanging out at home, 15 students and three professors from LaGrange College found their fun in serving others during the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in El Salvador.
      The ASB has a long history at the college, said Alvin Lingenfelter, assistant professor of religion.
      “We have been challenging students with these spring break alternatives for the last 12 years, with both domestic locations (Boston, Memphis and Los Angeles) and international (Prague, Costa Rica and El Salvador),” he said. 
       The college connected with its United Methodist Church affiliation and the North Georgia Conference for the trip.  The Rev. Stephen Soulen, pastor at Manchester (Ga.) United Methodist Church, helped guide the group, which was joined by volunteers from St. Paul United Methodist Church in Grant Park in Atlanta.
      “It's called the Bridges Project, and the hope is that churches in the conference will make connections and develop relationships with seven locations around the world,” Lingenfelter said. “The first was Uganda, which began a few years ago. El Salvador is planned as the second bridge.  The college is quite excited to be one of the pioneering groups for this bridge.”
      The trip was part of the North Georgia Conference's efforts to establish personal and service partnerships with the Methodist churches of El Salvador, providing a more sustainable and improved quality of life for people of the churches and their communities, said the Rev. Dr. Quincy Brown, vice president for spiritual life and church relations.
     The group traveled to Ahuachapan, El Salvador, where they provided a free health clinic for all ages, Vacation Bible School for the children, and extra construction workers for the enhancements to the church there.
     Stephanie Fowler, a junior biology major at LaGrange, said the group was able to collect tons of supplies for the trip.
      “We were able to offer a free health clinic with a nearly unlimited amount of generic medicines and vitamins available,” she said. “We had just the right workers to do that because we brought with us a doctor, a nurse-midwife, an emergency medical technician, a certified nursing assistant, and three LC nursing students.”
       The clinic volunteers saw more than 300 people in a little more than three days, treating conditions ranging from mild allergies to major blood pressure problems.
     It was not all work, however, as the Georgia visitors were able to spend time with their hosts at soccer matches and ice cream shops. 
      “The people of Ahuachapan showed me that the relationships are what matter most,” she said.  “They were patient in teaching us their language, their customs and their way of life, and they were not doing that simply to reap any benefits.  It was absolutely amazing, even life-changing, for all of us.”