#FutureIsUs: My volunteer work with Alternative Breaks

Chantelle Mnayarji with a young girl at an orphanage in Peru.

Name: Chantelle Mnayarji

Hometown: Longwood, Florida

What is your major? Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business, with an Asian Studies Certificate

What organization have you partnered with to impact our community? Alternative Breaks

What did you do within that organization? Who did you help?
Alternative Breaks allows college students to exchange their usual breaks in the semester for trips of service. In my first trip, I traveled to an orphanage in St. Mary, Jamaica, with our community partner, International Children’s Outreach Inc. There, my team and I helped renovate and refurbish a young girls’ orphanage. Through donations from our Miami community, we were able to supply the girls with hygiene products and instruct them on how to use them.

On my second trip, I went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with our community partner, Community Collaborations International, to help restore the homes of hurricane flood victims. I was given the opportunity to lead the group on this trip and the responsibility of organizing transportation to and from Baton Rouge, creating a relationship with our community partner and generating great spirits throughout the entirety of the trip.

My final trip with Alternative Breaks was in Cusco, Peru, with Maximo Nivel. My team and I learned the culture and experienced life in Peru. We spent our evenings at a local orphanage where we engaged in team-building games and activities that taught the children of the orphanage how to work together.

What community issues are you interested in solving, providing support for, or shedding light on?
Through my work with Alternative Breaks, I’ve been able to demonstrate my passion for developing youth and enriching the lives of others. I am a firm believer that our mission on earth is bound by our ability to serve others and that if we have the resources, time, and will to do so, we will leave a strong example of the impact an active citizen has on his or her community and world.

How did your involvement allow you to positively impact the community, and why is community engagement important?
My involvement in Alternative Breaks has changed my mindset and outlook on the world, and more specifically, my community. The week-long trips have been so eye-opening to both the volunteers and the community. Both groups gain a better appreciation for the other – college students giving up their spring, summer, or fall break to do community service is often shocking for the communities that benefit from their service. Community engagement not only enriches the community, but those serving it. The skills learned through service cannot be taught at home or in the classroom and can never be taken away or forgotten.

What advice do you have for those looking to get more involved with our community?
My first piece of advice would be to look locally. Your neighbor, classmate, friend, or someone on your campus could use some help and guidance, or they may know of a program where you can help. My second piece of advice would be to understand that you are not trained to be a counselor, public servant or social worker. You should not feel like you should have to be something other than a friend to those you are serving—having an open heart and mind is all you need!

Mnayarji in Peru with members of her FIU Alternative Breaks trip.

How does your work within the community connect back to your coursework?
Because of my passion for helping others, corporate social responsibility has been my favorite topic. It shows that the corporate world is not just about who can make the most money, but also focuses on helping the community.

What is the most memorable moment of your work in the community?
My most memorable Alternative Breaks moment was during my trip to Jamaica when the young girls of the orphanage would braid my hair and sing songs with me. Although simple, it gave me a real grasp on reality. Young girls from all over the world, with different cultures and financial upbringings, have the same innocent, genuine core of wanting to be silly, sing and have fun with their lives.

What did you learn about yourself and our community?
I have learned that my time is not guaranteed, and I must be a servant to those I come to serve. We are placed on this Earth to interact, impact, and socialize with others. Through service, we learn how to serve, befriend and act as a source of hope to all we meet.

What does #FutureIsUs mean to you?
#FutureIsUs is a great way to display the service we do for our community. We are the future — our actions shape the future, and our love for others defines it.

FIU’s Office of Engagement reaches out to the community, builds connections and nurtures partnerships. If you’re doing something great, let us know. We want the world to know about the work you’re doing to ensure that the #FutureIsUs (use the hashtag on social media).