Orthodox Christian Fellowship’s (OCF) Real Break program was “life-changing” for the 70 students who comprised seven teams visiting four different locations. In response to a post-break survey question asking if the experience had changed their life, every participant answered yes.
Two teams traveled to the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala and another two teams were sent to St. Innocent Orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, assisting the staffs of these Orthodox orphanages in the care of the children and working on improvements to both facilities. Two other teams were hosted by St. Spyridon Orthodox Mission in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the first team served in a soup kitchen for the homeless and the second team renovated a home for battered women. The seventh team had been slated to travel to Greece to assist in repairs of an ancient monastery damaged in a recent earthquake. Due to warnings to travelers to the region stemming from the impending war with Iraq, the team was instead sent to Raphael House, an Orthodox shelter for homeless families in San Francisco, where they prepared over 100 meals a day for the homeless.
Spring breaks have become more and more notorious in recent years, with tens of thousands of college students, including many Orthodox students, escaping winter weather and school pressures, and traveling to a variety of tropical locations. As news programs such as Dateline and films such as “The Real Cancun,” have portrayed, most students freely and enthusiastically engage in binge drinking and sexual promiscuity, while others are pressured into these activities. Real Break provides alternatives to these “traditional” spring breaks for Orthodox college students, and gives them instead a full Christian experience of fellowship and service to others.
For the second consecutive year, Real Break was run in cooperation with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. The program provides opportunities for spiritual growth with one-on-one interaction with a priest accompanying each group. Upon her return from Mexico, Martha Mae Woodrum, a junior at Wake Forest University, reflected, “This week at Project Mexico, God showed me that true joy comes from serving the poor and meek - for they shall inherit the kingdom of God. The most rewarding part of the week was coming back from the worksite and eating lunch with the boys and trying to speak Spanish with them. Although I don’t know the language, smiles, laughter and love are universal and that was made apparent this week.”
Each participant raised the funds for their trip, and donors have become a part of each participant’s experience as photos and stories are shared. In its fourth year, Real Break has involved over 240 participants, serving eight different locations.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) is the official campus ministry effort of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). It is a Pan-Orthodox effort, overseen by an Executive Committee and aided by an eleven person Student Advisory Board. The office is located in Boston, MA where a full time staff develops OCF programs and resources. The staff is available to guide and support local OCF chapters through communication with the larger Orthodox community, national programs, and development of resources for use by Orthodox college students.