Alternative Winter Break is designed to challenge students by taking them out of the comfort of their everyday surroundings and immersing them in an unfamiliar, hopefully life-changing environment, according to a press release about the program. The program aspires to further develop the Jewish values of activism and social justice in young people.
From Dec. 22-27, Esrig, along with 25 other Jewish high school students from New Jersey, joined forces with other students from all over North America and Puerto Rico to participate in community development projects and rebuilding efforts in certain neighborhoods in New Orleans, LA and Los Angeles, CA.
“It was a very nice experience and I would do it all over again,” Esrig said in a phone interview with Patch about the volunteer trip in New Orleans. “This was the first trip I ever took like this, so it was very special.”
The volunteers did multiple projects in the New Orleans community throughout the trip, according to Esrig.
On the first day of the trip, Esrig stated the volunteers went to people’s houses and assisted them with light bulb repairs.
helped people change their light bulbs to green light bulbs, which would help
them save over $1,000,” Esrig said.
On another day of the trip, the group did church and charity work, according to Esrig.
planted a community garden for people to be able to grow their own vegetables,
fruits and trees to help them feed themselves,” Esrig said.
On Christmas Eve, Esrig stated the group helped throw a holiday party for underprivileged kids in the area.
“For Christmas Eve, we threw a party for underprivileged kids and each volunteer had to buy two gifts for the kids so everyone got a gift,” Esrig said. “We sang songs and they were really happy so it was nice to see that.”
On Christmas Day, the volunteers headed to a senior home and spent time with the elderly, according to Esrig.
“We spent time at St. Margaret’s senior home and attended a miniature mass with the residents there,” Esrig said.
stated the entire trip was a great experience, but he enjoyed visiting the
Ninth Ward the best.
“The Ninth Ward was hit by Hurricane Katrina and we helped people with many different projects for their houses,” Esrig said. “Everything was gone, so we helped them clean, dig holes and other things.”
“The Ninth Ward was an experience because there were nice people there and it was nice to see them in their culture because they all lived in a very close-knit community and all the family lived in the same neighborhoods,” Esrig said. “It was very interesting to see how they all worked together.”
According to the release, Alternative Winter Break, established by Young Judaea following Hurricane Katrina, sent one group of students to New Orleans for the fifth time in six years to help renovate homes and work with local youth and residents in the Ninth Ward, developing a stronger understanding of rebuilding efforts and issues affecting the Gulf Coast region today since Hurricane Katrina.
year, an amazing group of students is forgoing relaxing over winter break in
favor of rolling up their sleeves with hands-on service projects in a new
environment,” Andrew Fretwell, program manager, said in a press release about
the trip. “This is an experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their
lives. By living and working in communities where the effects of their efforts
can be felt, these teens will learn firsthand about the issues affecting those
who live in recovering and struggling areas.