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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Alternative Spring Break Students to Assist Refugee Camp Workers in Greece

By Noell Saunders

Kleopatra Moditsi and Megan Trent are among 29 Old Dominion students who will spend spring break helping refugees, people with disabilities and restoring oyster reefs as part of the University's alternative spring break trip March 4-12.

The alternative Spring Break program offers transformative community service-based experiences designed to heighten students' awareness of critical social issues, enhance individual growth, and prepare them to become lifelong active citizens. Each trip integrates service, reflection and education while focusing on various social issues such as poverty, youth development, economic development and sustainability.

This year, three separate groups of ODU students are visiting Texas, South Carolina, and Greece.

Moditsi and Trent are part of the group heading to Oinofyta, Greece to volunteer at a refugee camp that houses about 650 migrants and refugees, primarily from Aghanistan. The camp is managed by Lisa Campbell, who is from Newport News and one of the founders of a disaster-relief organization called "Do Your Part."

"Since we have refugee resettlement programs here in Hampton Roads, my hope for this experience is that we all come back understanding the bigger picture to better serve our local communities and become stronger advocates for this population of people," said Leah Pfitzinger, a trip advisor and graduate assistant in ODU's Office of International Programs.

Moditsi, an international student and native of Greece, said while she understands the culture in her country; dealing with refugees is a new experience for her.

"I know a week is not a lot of time to make a difference but we can at least encourage them," she said. "We can show them that there is a future better than what they have."

Moditsi is double majoring in political science and international studies. She said she couldn't be more excited about going home to lend a hand for a good cause. The trip also lines up perfectly with her future career goals.

"It's a chance for me to see what these people go through, have a one-on-one conversation with them and see what it feels like to be uprooted to a place you didn't plan on going to," Moditsi said.

Trent, a psychology student minoring in criminal justice, is an avid U.S. traveler but, unlike Moditsi, has never ventured outside the country. She said she has mixed emotions, but can't wait to go.

"I'm anxious to experience something new, but I'm nervous because it's a different culture unlike the United States," Trent said. "It's definitely a new opportunity that I didn't have before."

Moditsi and Trent became friends while traveling at ODU. "Kleo (Moditsi) is so helpful and now she is stuck with me," Trent said, jokingly.

A separate group of ODU students will visit Camp Summit in Paradise, Texas, where they will work with children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. With guidance from trained staff, students will counsel campers and help out with day-to-day activities. Students will also make a brief stop in Dallas for a sightseeing adventure before coming back to Virginia.

Amy Joaquim, coordinator for community service for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services (SEES), said the key is for students to explore situations outside their comfort zones.

"I think students are exposed to so much diversity at ODU and this is going to open their eyes to a different type of diversity that deals with accessibility issues," Joaquim said.

The third group of students will rebuild oyster reefs in McClellanville, South Carolina. This is the second year Old Dominion is working with the Sewee to Santee Community Development Corporation, an organization that addresses environmental needs. The students are rebuilding the oyster reefs to help recover the habitat and water quality benefits that healthy reefs provide.