Brescia Students Grateful for First Alternative Spring Break Project


April 2, 2008

London, ON – Much has been written about students of the Y Generation having a sense of entitlement and approaching post-secondary education as consumers. With staff support from the Student Services Department, 13 students learned a new sense of gratitude and awareness when they traveled to Thailand in February to work in an orphanage for two weeks in Brescia University College’s first Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program.

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Brescia student Candace Keeling helps young Alie Baba prepare for some hand painting in a Thai orphanage.

The participants hosted a showcase on March 31 to present their experiences and photos from the Baan Dada Orphanage to about 30 members of the Brescia community. Diane Reesor, first-year family studies student, learned several lessons in gratitude. “These children at the Baan Dada Orphanage have been through some horrific and traumatizing experiences, yet remain centered and guided by what they know they have to do. From when they get up at sunrise and don’t rest their head till the sun goes down, they appreciate everything that’s provided to them. Being in Thailand really makes you realize that you are always going to have more than some, and less than others. But you should always be happy with what you have, and the people around you.”

Kathleen Maika, a fifth-year student majoring in english and sociology, describes how the ASB experience significantly changed her perspective. “The people of the orphanage are conscious of their limited means but are very resourceful with their land. They practice reducing, reusing and recycling in a manner which reflects great awareness of the value of every commodity. Conservation of everything, from the amount of paint we used while painting the great hall, to the rice we used to make the mud bricks for their new building, to the portions of food that we ate were taken into consideration.

“Their sharing, caring attitude was very evident within the Baan Dada community. This made me reflect on my own lifestyle. Not only do I take for granted the easy access to a consumer-driven western world lifestyle, but I follow it blindly. This trip provided me with the opportunity to think about how I can be more resourceful in my everyday life, and resist the lure of consumerism.”

Reesor and Maika both aspire to become teachers. In increasingly multicultural classrooms, the ASB experience has afforded them more worldly and empathic approaches to teaching. Maiker said, “I am a firm believer that education is received outside the classroom as much as it is within the classroom. As a sociology student, I was able to experience first hand the social inequality I’ve spent so much time reading about in textbooks.”

Reesor added, “I feel that this program has opened my eyes to an entirely new world. It has brought up so many questions about my life and what I want out of it. I do know that I want to continue to work with children, and help them find the right path in life.”

Jessie Westlake-McCormick, co-curricular service-learning coordinator at Brescia, said some of the students in the Program went to Thailand with a passion for service and others discovered their passion on this trip. “There were a handful of students who had the message of service almost ingrained in them. Then, this project really brought out the emotions to connect them with that. Because they’ve had this experience, they will continue service work for the rest of their lives, as they indicated in their journals. They want to go back.”

ASB organizers continue to accept donations towards the Bann Dada Orphanage to support the 50 children aged two to 19 who live there. Also, people are invited to contact Westlake- McCormick at to arrange to view and purchase hand-woven garments made by Thai women. The proceeds will support the Bann Dada Orphanage and the Weaving Project, through which Thai mothers make and sell the garments to support their families.

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For more information, please contact: Jessie Westlake-McCormick, Co-curricular Service- Learning Coordinator at 519-432-8353, ext. 28036 or Julie Maltby, Communications & Alumnae Relations Officer at 519-432-8353, ext. 28280.

Brescia University College, Canada’s only women’s university college, is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. The 954 women registered as full-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition while perusing Western degrees. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more information, please visit