After taking an unanticipated hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student-run Volunteers Without Borders (VWB) is back in swing for the 2021-22 school year.With COVID-19 precautions and restrictions in mind, this year the group will offer three domestic trips. In the next year, VWB will travel to Mississippi during winter break, West Virginia during spring break and Louisiana during summer break.
In 2019, the Drew Volunteer Resource Center became Volunteers Without Borders, a student-led organization that focuses on providing affordable service experiences to the Drew community. The group aims to encourage engagement with new communities and tackle different issues in varying locations. The club takes three trips per year, domestic or international, and provides community service in the form of rebuilding, environmental cleaning and foodbanking.
First on the roster for the upcoming year is a trip to Biloxi, Miss., where VWB will partner with Community Collaborations International. This trip’s themes are early childhood education, environmental projects and hunger and homelessness with several restoration and community service projects in the works. The trip will take place from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15, 2022 and is priced at $500 including airfare. Need-based scholarships of $100 are available as well.
The group aims to avoid voluntourism, a form of tourism where people volunteer often for the wrong reasons or with inaccurate information. With this goal in mind, anyone attending a trip must also attend three workshops run by one of the trip leaders with information about the location and conduct of the trip. This preparation also helps make the trips as accessible as possible, since no prior knowledge is needed to attend.
Co-president Bri Rooks (‘22) recalled her first VWB trip to Louisiana more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina and said the trip was shocking yet important to her perspective. Much work was still needed in the area as a result of the hurricane, even after a decade had passed. She said, “Not just Louisiana but any VWB trip is really eye-opening about what is really happening in our country.”
She also expressed that the camaraderie groups built both within themselves and other volunteers makes the trips unique.
All VWB trips count as an immersive experience for Drew University’s graduation requirements.