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Alternative Break Celeb: Alicia Affinito

Computer science and engineering major, Alicia Affinito is no stranger to involvement here at UConn. Only a freshman, Alicia is involved in three clubs here on campus including: Leadership in Action, Society of Women Engineers, and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. Most recently, Alicia became involved with Alternative Breaks: Spring Community Outreach, using her spring break to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Q: What made you choose New Orleans as the location for your alternative spring break?

I knew there was still a lot of work to be done after Hurricane Katrina. I want to be able to help those affected by it.

Q: What was your reaction when you first arrived in New Orleans?

It was really surprising and sad because there were so many houses that were still destroyed or abandoned. One house would be repaired and the one next to it would be still boarded up. But the people were still optimistic and full of hope.

Q: What was an average day like on your trip?

We would get up at 7:30 A.M., eat breakfast together and make our lunches. By 8:30, we were on a bus and going to our scheduled work site. We would work until 12:30 then break for lunch and work again until 3. Then we got back on the bus and had some free time at night before dinner and our reflection.

Q: What is reflection?

We would split into small teams and talk about the day’s experiences and how it related to life in general.

Q: What was your most rewarding job in New Orleans?

On Tuesday, we went to the Lower 9th Ward, which is a community where most of the damage still is. My group helped a women clear the abandoned house next door because her and her husband bought it to create housing for her mother law and rent it out for a second income. It was rewarding because we could tell how grateful she was. She told us she wanted to get it one for years and we were finally able to do it.

Q: How has this trip affected you?

It made me more grateful for everything I have. It made me want to be a more active citizen. Working with such amazing people made me want to open up and have more conversation with people on an everyday basis.

Q: Was repairing damaged sites the only thing you worked on?

We worked with an organization called ARC, which helps employ people with disabilities. On Monday, we worked with them to sort over 4,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads that will be repackaged to sell and raise money for the organization. On Friday, we worked on ARC’s farm, planting new plants and getting new land ready so they can sell their fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market.

Q: What was it like working with ARC?

It was fun and rewarding because they were so full of life. They were really friendly and welcoming.

Q: What are you and the group doing to continue acts of service back at UConn?

We continue our weekly meetings and discuss service projects and fundraising that we can do for New Orleans and for local communities. We all got close in new Orleans and that made us a stronger group to do more for our community.

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