Washington and Lee’s Hillel had its first-ever Alternative Break over the Washington Holiday, when 14 students traveled to Uruguay. According to Joan Robins, director of Hillel at W&L, who accompanied the students, the group focused on poverty issues in Montevideo, where they worked with individuals who were severely affected by the 2002 economic crisis in that South American country.
The W&L students spent two days at a child-care center, which distributes meals and provides educational programming. It is also a place for the children to shower (albeit with cold water), because most of them do not have water at home. They played games with the children and painted the shacks that made up the center. Several students made donations for a new hot-water heater. In addition, they worked with local Uruguyan Hillel students, teachers, mothers and children to paint the facilities at a battered women’s shelter.
During the visit, the students met members of the local Jewish community, played bingo with folks at a Jewish home for the elderly, and enjoyed Shabbat services at local synagogues and dinner with several host families. Wrote Robins: “Our students discovered a country with a rich history, vibrant culture and complex socio-political system. They enjoyed very friendly people, and had fun exploring the city nightlife, such as salsa and tango, and also relaxed on Uruguayan beaches.”
Students who participated were Stephanie Dultz ’10, Emily Martin ’10, Dinah Danforth ’10, Lizzie Engel ’13, Ali Greenberg ’13, Nora Wallenius ’13, Melissa Horadam ’13, Tracy Richardson ’11, Jared Hester ’13, Graham Sheridan ’11, Brian Cherry ’11, Josh Posner ’12, Lev Raslin ’12 and Max Chapnick ’13.
The trip was funded in part by Hillel International, but the W&L students held fund-raisers and contributed to the cost of the airfare. Since it was founded eight years ago, Hillel’s program has sent more than 7,000 students to rebuild communities in Israel, the Gulf Coast, Central and South America, Former Soviet Union, Cuba, Brazil and Uruguay.