MerServe’s alternative spring break program to focus on local childhood poverty

MerServe, a student-led service programming board that offers volunteer opportunities to Mercer University students, will host the annual Spring Break for Service experience March 3-6.

The theme this year will be the needs of children in the Macon community. Student volunteers will help a variety of development and youth engagement programs, according to Mary-Angel Ekezie, a member of the Youth Engagement and Development Team for Mer- Serve.

“Since I am heading up Spring Break for Service, I thought this would be a great way to shine a light on the issues that children in this area have to go through. While this idea developed from a personal desire, it’s also something we haven’t really done for MerServe before,” Ekezie said.

MerServe will be working alongside Project Linus, a group that makes blankets to donate to the local children’s hospital, and the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that provides meals for families whose children are receiving long term care in hospitals.

Ekezie said that all of the work during this program will benefit Macon.

“We’ll be able to see the different perspectives on why these groups do the work that they do and how to get involved more,” she said.

“This will give us more opportunities to serve, like Project Linus, where we can actually make blankets for children going through chemotherapy. Hopefully these new opportunities will help people think of service they can do after the fact, after the spring break program is over.”

Sally Deitchman, a sophomore MerServe board member who helped coordinate this year’s events, attended last year’s Spring Break for Service, which was centered around Hunger and Homelessness.

“I think service in general can be a very humbling experience for people,” Deitchman said. “We always hear about the Mercer bubble and how people at Mercer can be isolated from the people in Macon. Doing things like this helps us see more of the community.”

Deitchman said participating in Spring Break for Service and MerServe can help students bridge that gap.

“They both really cultivate that sense of community both within the people you’re doing service with and the Macon community,” Deitchman said. “You always hear about that gap between Macon and Mercer students, but MerServe does a good job of helping students branch out and see where others are living. We’re all human; there’s this common humanity. Serving within your community really highlights that.”

Although child poverty is the focus for Spring Break for Service this year, Macon has been feeling its effects for much longer.

In 2013, 26.7 percent of total children living in Georgia were recorded to be living in poverty. This percentage increased in Bibb County, where 44.6 percent of children were found to be living in poverty, according to The Telegraph.

Studies in 2016 showed that the concentrated poverty rate in Macon stood at 44.7 percent. The city now has the third-highest rate in the nation, according to USA Today.

“Since a lot of the children here in Macon live in poverty, I just feel like we should be able to provide more for them, more opportunities for success for them that they may not already have,” Ekezie said. “MerServe makes service more available to Mercer students, and Mercer students more available to the community.”